Alex and Brett Harris ask four rather radical questions of Teenagers in their book, Do Hard Things:
- Is it possible that even though teens today have more freedom than any other generation in history, we’re actually missing out on some of the best years of your lives?
- Is it possible that what our culture says about the purpose and potential of the teen years is a lie and that we are its victims?
- Is it possible that our teen years give us once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for huge accomplishments–as individuals and as a generation?
- And finally, what would our lives look like if we set out on a different path entirely–a path that required more effort but promised a lot more reward?
The Harris brothers claim that the teen years are not years to be wasted playing video games and skimping on homework, but rather important years to be used for the glory of God. They firmly believe that teens are not only capable of doing hard things, but they are called to do hard things! Furthermore, the teens years are the perfect opportunity for teens to begin the important practice of living outside their comfort zone.
Doing hard things for the glory of God may be . . . hard, but the Harris brothers are absolutely right in claiming that living outside our comfort zone leads to fulfilling, deep, satisfying joy.
The category “teenager” didn’t exist 60 years ago–throughout the vast majority of human history, there were two age categories–adults and children. It wasn’t that long ago in American history where most “teens” were working full-time and even had already gotten married and started families. Why is that? Because they were old enough to make adult decisions and do adult things.
Don’t mishear me, I am not suggesting teenagers should get married earlier, drop out of school, and get full-time jobs, but we should be careful to assume that we have evolved to some new and better level of thinking in terms of teens. The expectations of teenagers today is hideously low. Most people are happy if their teen can manage to keep drug free, graduate high school, and manage not to have a baby or get anyone pregnant. Furthermore, when teens progress on into their 20s and 30s they are increasingly delaying marriage and adulthood. Many 20 and 30-somethings still live with their parents and are still playing Xbox in their parents basement.
The Harris brothers say its time to raise the bar of expectations on teens. I wholeheartedly agree. Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” The cross is a means of death–it would be like saying “take up your electric chair” or “take up your lethal injection and come follow me.” Jesus expects his followers to do hard things for His kingdom. The good news is that doing hard things comes with incredible rewards both in this life and in the one to come. That is why Jesus described the kingdom of God like a treasure hidden in a field which a man sold everything he had to buy! That is also why James said, “count it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds,” because in the end, doing hard things, facing difficult trials by faith results in a life of fullness and joy (James 1:2-5).
So I think the kind of life that the Harris brothers are calling teens toward, is actually the life that we should all be seeking to live. Maybe you wasted your teen years getting drunk and investing in pointless, commitmentless relationships, but no matter how old you are, you don’t have to waste the rest of your life. I truly believe Philippians 4:13–“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” applies to all believers. No believer is stuck in mediocrity. We can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do incredibly difficult and fulfilling things for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom.
I am with the Harris brothers in their “Rebelution” against low expectations for teenagers, but I think their principles ought to be applied to everyone. What might God do for the glory of His kingdom if more and more Christians of all ages joined this “Rebelution” and began making steps outside their comfort zone to be used of the Lord to do hard things.
You still don’t think you can do hard things for the kingdom? Read Do Hard Things, there are countless stories of teenagers doing amazing things, things you wouldn’t expect teens to do–all for the glory of God. I think there are similarly low expectations for most adults in society. Most adults think of success in life as having a decent family and making enough money to send your children to college–but what if we set the bar a little higher? What if we as adult believers expected a little bit more of ourselves?
Here are a few suggestions for some expectations that I think every believer should set for themselves. Consider these things, put them to prayer and then read the Harris brothers book and join the Rebelution:
1. Make plans to go overseas within the next two years. Engage in a short term mission trip somewhere overseas in a different culture. God is a God of the nations and He will bring a people from every tribe tongue and nation–He is doing that right now, go and see! Further, the Great Commission isn’t just for full-time missionaries, it is a command given to all Christians (Matthew 28:18-20).
2. Attempt to Lead someone to Christ this year. I know, I know, we don’t convert people, that is the Holy Spirit’s job, but we are all called to preach the gospel and make disciples. Don’t just share the gospel, lead someone along, tell them about Christ but more than that build a relationship with some lost friends and both preach Christ to them and show them Christ living in you by letting them observe your life! Bring them to church, begin investing on a regular basis in their Spiritual life.
3. Teach your family to follow after Christ. Do you spend any spiritually-focused time with your family apart from taking them to church? I am not saying you need to preach a 3-point sermon to your family every week, but read the Bible together, pray together, worship together and do it regularly. Who knows what the Lord might do through your family if you will seek to make a consistent spiritual impact on them. It may be difficult and their may be opposition, but you will also be setting your family before God’s very word on a regular basis and God’s Word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12, Romans 1:16).
4. Make a plan to impact your community missionally. Our gospel preaching must be coupled with compassionate kingdom living–if you love Christ, you will love your neighbor. I can’t spell this one out for you because I don’t live in your community, but think about your communities needs and brainstorm ways to meet them and then start doing something about it! Start a free English as a second language course. Start a Backyard Bible club, offer a free tutoring course, host a clothing closet, soup kitchen, or free breakfast. Do something–because you love your savior and that love translates into love for those whom he might save through your witness!