Review–Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things is a component of Brett and Alex Harris’ “Rebelution,” challenges its teen audience to rebel against the low expectations our society at large has for this age group and to “reach higher, dream bigger, grow stronger, love and honor God, live with more joy—and quit wasting their lives.”

This is excellent. The book discusses the “Myth of Adolescence” and comes out on top. Our society’s invention of the teenage years has discouraged teenagers from pursuing excellence and offered a different route: settle for less. Just do the best you can. Don’t push yourself. So a distressing number of teenagers swallow the lie and accomplish little of value in what the Harris brothers term the most crucial years.

The Harris brothers, on the other hand, promote a better way. They encourage the readers to engage in five different types of “hard things”: acting outside one’s comfort zone, going beyond what is required, organizing and accomplishing projects that are too big to do alone, things that don’t have immediate payoff, and making choices at odds with the current culture. Scattered throughout the book are literally dozens of examples of teenagers doing big things. These testimonies are exciting examples of what teenagers can do to glorify God, and they are all great to read.

But there are two brief but major errors which make me unable to recommend the book.

On page 101, in the midst of their talk about exceeding expectations and pursuing excellence, they correctly identify that God has called us to be holy as He is holy. “God’s standard is not for us to be our teacher’s best helper, but to be a ‘servant of all.’”

Wonderful.

Then they say this: “God set His standards this high so that we won’t make the mistake of aiming low. He made them unreachable so that we would never have an excuse to stop growing.”

Wait. Weren’t they just talking about exceeding expectations? Aiming for excellence and being holy? So why throw that in there?

Yes, I think I know what they mean. God’s standards are very high, and we can’t make the mistake of aiming low. But unreachable? Never!

Did God not say through Moses, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” (Deut. 30:11-14, NASB)

God told the nation of Israel that all the law He commanded was not unreachable. He said it was not too difficult for them. It was, in fact, so close that they could observe it.

So why do the Harris brothers contradict the Bible and say that it’s impossible? That in itself is enough to keep me from recommending the book.

Then, on page 126, they say, “Even good, solid, sincere Christians are sinful and imperfect.”

Troubling. 1 John says the opposite: “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:7-9, NASB)

In all their challenges to the reader, the most important one — living a holy life — is not just ignored. It is flatly denied. And it’s baffling, too. Did they not quote 1 Peter 1:16, where we are told to be holy as God is holy? They acknowledge His command but turn around and state that no one can obey Him. How many will be led astray by this?

So, while I would love to promote this book as a much-needed response to the problem of apathy in my generation, I can’t. As much as they encourage their readers to make a difference in the world, they fail in the most important areas. Readers could do amazing things but remain trapped in sin, not knowing they could be set free. They would remain condemned.

Remove the two offending sections, and I will readily promote it.

Bark at me