Today, we will talk about a type of pressure many young people fall under today. Throughout the remainder of this lesson, let’s refer to it as peer pressure. Peer pressure is a social influence exerted by others on an individual. This is when pressure is exerted to get someone to act or believe the same way as the one doing the pressuring. This pressure is acted out by a peer group, someone usually in your age group, that you know.
Peer pressure starts something like this. Maybe you talk to a friend, and they introduce you to something like smoking. They might begin by saying something similar to, everyone is doing it!. Most young people start smoking at 15 years old in the United States. And they start because of peer pressure. Their friends convince them, saying things like, Hey, try this, if you do, you will be so cool, and it makes you part of the “ in crowd”.
Peer pressure is pressure placed upon you by members of people your own age who want to persuade you into a particular action or to adopt a specific value, or conform to their way so you can be accepted. In middle school, I remember when a fellow student tried to tempt me to smoke cigarettes. He was a popular person, and the other students thought he was super cool. It was the first time I was tempted this way. The devil came to mind with thoughts saying, you could be popular just like him if you smoke. But praise God for His grace! I could say no to the devil and resist the temptation.
Peer pressure affects us all. In fact, I can tell you as an adult, there is still peer pressure trying to push and pressure me to conform to the things of this world. I remember my first job in my late teens. I worked as a house painter. After work, the guys on the painting crew would stop at the store and drink wine coolers. I didn’t know what that was, but they tried to persuade me to drink the wine coolers as a young person. As I grew older, I was still confronted by pressure from others. In my next job, I went to company events, and people continually offered to buy me drinks. But these were not regular drinks like orange juice or soda. The drinks were full of alcohol. This peer pressure affects all of us, and the devil knows that peer pressure is one of the most effective ways to lead young people into sin. Remember Adam and Eve? Adam was pressured by Eve to partake in something that was a sin.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
Even the Israelites, God’s chosen people, allowed peer pressure to affect them and entered into idolatry.
“32 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.”
Peer pressure was involved when the Israelites came to Samuel the prophet and demanded a king. They said we want to be like all the other nations around us, make us a king!
“4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
This pressure from society and those who do not know God has been around for years. The pressure to do and take drugs, put things in your body that are not acceptable to God is real. It affects young people today and encourages ungodly behavior. The devil is a liar, and he loves to trick young people by saying, this once, just this once and never again. Then a young person finds themselves addicted and unable to stop, and that’s the enemy’s goal, to bind you with addiction.
I remember a young lady I knew in High School. She was one of the most popular students in the entire school. This young lady had everything going for her, she was pretty, smart, at the top of the class, and everyone at school liked her. Five years after I graduated, I was 24 years old; and I found out she had died of a drug overdose at just 23 years old. Her life had been going well, but then one day, she chose to try something that was not good for her. This choice took her down a path with the promise of feeling good and being accepted. But instead, her life was cut tragically short. Anything the devil tempts you with, remember, the end thereof is death. The devil never starts his temptation by telling you this is bad for you. He begins by telling you that you will feel good. But the devil is a liar, and his goal is to destroy you when he tempts you with drugs. He wants to destroy your body, your friendships, your family, and eventually your mind. So be careful if someone is trying to tempt you through peer pressure to do something just so you can fit in.
“10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:
12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:
13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:
14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:”
Notice the proverb writer says to this person, my son. The writer is speaking to you. He is saying, my son, my daughter to you. I want you to think about the following statement; do not consent if peer pressure is confronting your life. Not all people that call us “friend” are good for us. If you have “friends’ trying to entice you to go against God’s commands or go into sin, take drugs, alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use other vices of this world, remember they are not your true “friends.” We might feel we are so strong, and peer pressure is of no danger to us, but I want to tell you to beware of that feeling. The Corinthians writer tells us we need to watch for our Salvation lest we fall.
“12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Peer pressure can be good or bad. It can influence how we dress, the kind of music we listen too and the behavior we engage in. This behavior can include risky behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, or sexual behaviors. Today, some youth give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked or fit in with the group and not be made fun of by others. They worry that other kids will tease and bully them if they don’t go along with the group. Other young people may go along out of curiosity to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone is doing it” may influence some kids to ignore their better judgment or common sense.
The Bible has a story about three young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three young men were under severe peer pressure to get them to do something wrong and against their beliefs.
“7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
The peer pressure was so intense that the king at the time told them, if you do not do what I say, I am going to throw you into the furnace.
“19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.”
But these three young men did not give in to peer pressure and trusted God to help them through the situation. And although they were thrown into the fiery furnace, God delivered them.
“26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.”
So we can not always avoid negative peer pressure. But I challenge you to live like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Be a light to the world. Avoid situations that put you in a place where you might be tempted to partake in something sinful. Choose your friends wisely. If you hang around others who share your Christian values, you might never be asked to do something that you shouldn’t be doing. Think about the consequences whenever you are asked to do something you aren’t sure about. Stop for a moment and ask, will this activity get me in trouble or harm my health? The last thing is to learn to say “no.” The word no is perhaps the most challenging word for young people to say to their peers. “No” is the most powerful word that can protect you from the evil things of this world.
In the end, people will judge you. They might say, look at the holy roller! They go to church and walk with their Bible under their arm! So don’t live your life trying to impress others. Instead, live your life to impress God.
1Corinthians 10: 13
“3 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
In closing, peer pressure is real. Peer pressure confronts all of us, and it doesn’t go away just because we get older. We need to trust God, and He will help us with the peer pressure. So put your trust in God, and don’t allow others to influence you to turn away. Keep your eyes focused on God, and you’ll be blessed and free from the vices the devil wants to use to destroy your life. We pray that God blesses each one of you.