Do Hard Things. That is what Alex and Brett Harris encourage in their recent book of the same title. This would be impressive enough if it were written to adults by adults. Instead, it is written to teens by teens. The Harris brothers are 19-year-old twins. At age 16, they interned at the Alabama Supreme Court. At seventeen, they served as grass-roots directors for four statewide political campaigns. By 18, they were the co-authors of the Web's most popular Christian teen blog. This year, they have co-authored a book that is destined to be a bestseller, if it has not already reached that status. If you are a teenager or plan to be someday, if you have children or grandchildren who are teenagers or plan to be someday, if you know a teenager, or if you used to be a teenager, this book is for you. One warning to the post-teenagers: if you wasted your teen years, this book will produce a bit of shame and guilt. However, for me, it did it in a positive way that has not made me linger in shame but rather encouraged me to get moving right now.
The Harris brothers challenge today's teens to rebel against our culture's low expectations. They take a decidedly Christian approach, but their book is helpful even if you are not a Christian. Their challenge is simple-- Do Hard Things. Do not take the easy path. Do not take the path of least resistance. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity from yourself even if everyone else thinks your mediocrity is excellent.
On the down side, I do think they missed the boat on what the Scriptures say regarding salvation. They tout the common evangelical line that salvation is by faith alone, despite the fact that the only place in the Bible the phrase "faith alone" is used is a passage saying justification does not come by faith alone (James 2:24). They totally ignore the role of baptism in becoming God's child (cf. Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Also, while I recognize we can serve God no matter what our profession, I think they confuse this with actual missionary work. I think it is great that teenagers have become involved in the ending of modern day slavery, in providing houses for the needy and food for the homeless. Those works, as good as they are, however, are not fulfilling the great commission. The great commission is to teach the gospel to the lost and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).
Despite those problems, I think this book is a must read. I have no doubt my congregation will be getting some lessons this year inspired by the challenges I read in Do Hard Things. While much of what they said applies to secular profession or social concerns, the principles highly apply to spiritual lives, as the Harris brothers repeatedly point out. Jesus called His people to avoid the broad, wide, easy road and walk on the narrow, strait and difficult road. Jesus has called us to do hard things.
The cream of the book is the discussion of the "Five Kinds of Hard." 1) Doing things outside your comfort zone. 2) Doing things that go beyond what is expected or required. 3) Doing things too big to accomplish alone. 4) Doing things that do not earn immediate payoff. 5) Doing things that go against the grain of the cultural norms. I especially liked #4 because it reminded me some hard things are very small. However, facing up to those small hard challenges repeatedly produces big, long-term results.
My wife picked up this book Saturday afternoon. While she was busy, I read the first chapter and then absconded with it. I finished it on Sunday evening. I guess the first hard thing I need to do is apologize to my wife for stealing. However, I am really excited to hit 2009 with this great encouragement to "Do Hard Things." I encourage you, even if it is hard, get this book. Read it. Read it to your kids. I think you will be changed by it. It is definitely a springboard for your spiritual life.