Pressure Points

Pressure points – Peer pressure

PEER PRESSURE

[Pressure Points Series]

 

Text: 1 Samuel 8; Daniel 1.

 

1. INTRODUCTION.

 

Whenever we hear the words “PEER PRESSURE” the first things that usually springs to mind is Teenagers and the problems they face. Drugs, drink, Dress, Discos and Dating [sex].

This is the popular image of Peer Pressure. We tend to think that we all face the issues that Teenagers face in their growing up years but we then grow out of it and Peer Pressure is no longer a major problem. WRONG!!

 

Peer Pressure is something we face all through our lives. YES, at some points it is more intense than others AND at other points we are better able to cope with it. It is not confined to Teenage years only.

 

At all stages of our lives we are under pressure to confrom. We often do things simply because it is the DONE THING. We say things because it is politically correct to voice certain opinions even if we don’t always believe in them ourselves.

 

EG: It is not fashionable to say that pre/extra marital sexual relationships are wrong.

It is unfashionable to say that homosexuality is wrong.

 

Tolerance has become a virtue. So it is acceptable to say “I don’t agree!” BUT it is generally unacceptable to say, “You are wrong!”  It may be wrong FOR YOU but it is not wrong. Why? because we live in a society were there are few, if any, absolutes.

As Christians we are under pressure to conform to this kind of thinking as well.

 

Pressure to speak and act in a certain way!! A way that is acceptable to the majority.

 

2. WHY IS PEER PRESSURE SUCH A STRONG FORCE?

 

What is it that motivates people to conform?  Is it simply because people are unthinking and gullible? Or is there more to it than that?

 

We are familiar with the term “SANCTIONS” as it is used in the international community.

 

ILLUST: Why does the United Nations impose sanctions on various countries from time to time?  Because in the view of the UN a particular country is not conforming to international Norms. They don’t always get it right and they are certainly not consistent in the application of sanctions. [I don’t want to get into politics] The purpose is to punish and to force the Govt. of that country to change its policies.

 

Now some Psychologists use the term SANCTIONS when talking about Peer Pressure and Conformity.

 

They speak about negative and positive sanctions.

If a person or group of people do not conform to a percieved norm then they are treated negatively. ie they loose their status, or they are isolated, or treated with aggression or punished

 

On the other hand positive sanctions have rewards for those who conform – acceptance, praise, gifts and titles.

 

ILLUST: Children – If you don’t do what we want then we won’t play with you.

OR If you do what I want then I will give you so and so.

 

It is these treats and promises whether spoken or unspoken that are the motivation for people conforming. Usually these pressures are unspoken. Often we are not even conscious of them but they are there never the less.

 

ILLUST: What is the aregument that children often use with their parents when they want something or want to do something? EVERYBODY has one or is going  to …

 

As adults we might not voice this same argument but it often plays a part in our decision making.

 

There is a desire within all of us to be accepted. To belong. To be part of the group. We don’t want to be isolated and left out.

We also like to be praised and acknowledged and rewarded in some way.

These SANCTIONS have a tremendous influence upon us. And consciously or unconsciously these are the things that motivate us to behave in the way we do.

 

ILLUST: When you have been abroad or been to another place where no one knows you, have you ever done things there that you would never dream of doing at home? WHY? I suspect because this pressure to conform is absent. Whether the people in that place accept you or not is irrelevant because you do not live there.

 

3. GIVING IN TO PEER PRESSURE.

 

The scripture passage we read from I Samuel 8 is a good example of a community under pressure.

God chose Israel so that they could be a blessing to the nations  {Gen12v3} God wanted them to be a positive influence in the world. Israel was to be different from the other nations. One of the differences was that they did not have a King.

 

But Israel wanted a king. What was their reasoning? What was their motivation?

We have the answer in v5 and v20

They said to him [Samuel], “You are old and your sons do not walk in your way,

now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have”

 

Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us

and to go out before us and to fight our battles

[1 Samuel 8v5&20]

 

In the international community of the day Israel was the odd one out. “Everybody has a king so we want one too.”

In their desire for an earthly king they were rejecting God as their King.

And the Lord told Him [Samuel];

“Listen to all the people are saying to you;

it is not you they have rejected,

they have rejected me as their king [v7]

 

Israel succombed to the pressure and turned their backs on God. This pressure of wanting to be like the Nations and doing what they were doing and following the gods of the nations was something that dogged the nation of Israel down through history.

 

It is so much easier to follow the crowd and to GO WITH THE FLOW than it is to GO AGAINST THE TIDE.

 

4. PRESSURE  FROM WITHIN.

 

We are tempted, very often, to think of pressure as EXTERNAL but the pressure from within the Church can be just as great. Very often our view of what a Christian should be and the way a Christian should act is moulded by our culture and by our particular Church background and we tend to judge other Christians from that perspective.

We are always in danger of creating our own check list of what we think a Christian should be and if he doesn’t fit into our box then we write him off.

 

ILLUST: When I was growing up in the Church as a young person You didn’t smoke, drink, go to the movies; the girl didn’t wear makeup or trousers.

 

But you can do all the right things and be accepted by the group but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a Christian and accepted by God. It means that you are simply a Pharisee.

 

God’s concern for us as his people is that we do not become conformed to the standards of the world from without OR to the unbiblical rules and regulations from within.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-

his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12v2]

 

The standard for which we have to aim is not simply acceptance by our peers. But the standard for our words and deeds and thoughts are set by God.

 

 

5. NOT ALL PEER PRESSURE IS BAD.

 

ILLUST: Have you ever been tempted to do something or say something that you know is not right. And the thing that stops you is that you know that your family and friends would not approve. So you don’t do it.

 

There is a pressure that is put upon us that is good and protects us. Often protects us from ourselves. So it is not all bad!

That is why accountability and stable homes make for a stable community. For the Christian belonging to a fellowship of believers is important and necessary. Just as our peers can have a negative influence on us, so too, they can have a positive influence on us.

 

We, in turn, can put positive pressure on others.

As Christians we are to be salt and light having a positive influence on our society.

It happens corporately when the Chruch speak to issues in society and is able to make a difference for God. Also individually.

 

ILLUST: Ever been in the situation at school, university, work where that dirty joke has not been told because you are there. When bad language is apologised for because you are there. That shady business deal has been blocked because you are there.

 

By not conforming, by not giving way under pressure we can apply counter pressure and influence for good.

 

6. HOW DO WE COPE UNDER PRESSURE.

 

Society and culture are always changing. The change is usually gradual and subtle. It creeps up on us. NOT all Change is necessarily bad. BUT with change come the pressure to conform.

 

ILLUST: Remember Daniel and his 3 friends who, after Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians were taken into exile in Babylon. They were under great pressure to conform to their new enviroment.

 

[Alistair Begg’s comments on this in his “DARE TO BE DIFFERENT” series at Keswick 1993 have been very helpful on this point]

 

Daniel’s and his 3 friends’ whole situation had changed; their location, education, names and diet.

To the Jew, what he eats is very important. It is one of the distintive marks of his Jewishness.

These young men face a dilemma. “Do we become absorbed into Babylonian society or do we maintain our distinctiveness.” It was very subtle.

 

They could have said ,“Well these things are not very impotant we will just go along” OR “We are going to stand up to Nebuchadnezzar and tell him exactly what we believe”

 

The Church through history has often been extreme: Either becoming so like the world that the difference is hardly noticable OR withdrawing into isolation where it can never possibly have an effect.

 

Jesus prayed for his people:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world

but that you protect them from the evil one [Jn.17v15]

 

ILLUST: Before we left RSA Christian schools were becoming quite popular in certain circles. I am not in favour of Christian schools. If all the christians withdraw from schools [the teachers too]  How can we influence the nations education system.

 

It is easy to be absorbed. It is easy to withdraw.

WHAT DID DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS DO?

Alistair Begg: “They decided they would be outwardly involved in a culture in which the remained inner strangers” There were certain things they were prepared to accept – the non essentials – but there was a point beyond which they would not go!!

 

They faced tremendous pressure!! God’s people will always face pressure to confrom.

There are some issues that are difficult to decide upon, where there are no easy answers BUT there are other issues that are absolutely clear in scripture about which there is no debate.

 

ILLUST: A Christian young person. Do I or Do I not sleep with my boy/girlfriend? You don’t need to pray about it or ask the pastor about it or discussion it . The Bible is clear.

 

Pray for strength to resist the temptation YES BUT not is it right or wrong.

WHAT DID DANIEL DO?

… DANIEL RESOLVED NOT TO DEFILE HIMSELF WITH THE ROYAL FOOD [Dan.1v8]

 

How did Daniel handle the situation: READ Daniel 1v8-20

 

He is gracious and asks permission. He doesn’t get on his high horse. He is not obnoxious. It is a quite determination to do what is right.

 

Daniel knew what he believed and he walked closely with God. He was not afraid to declare his allegiance.

 

He had been well taught!!

Parents – What are we teaching our children?

I was deeply challenged by what Alistair Begg said on this.

“…. Get down on your knees and stay there for those children. Our children are going to go away. It is absolutely certain; they’ll be gone. They’ll be among people who will want to change their name, change their location, change their diet, change their mind. How in the wide world will they ever be able to stand?  It won’t happen in a vacuum, and what is happening today in your home, in your television viewing, in the literature you read, in the conversations around your family table, is laying the foundations for the day when like this young man {Daniel} . They will need to stand and declare their purpose.

 

We don’t want to raise little robots but we want our children to believe and have a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

We need to take seriously the words of Dt. 6 Talk to your children about the things of God when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up. ie. Let the word of God influence every area of your life and talk about it and explain it to your children.

 

PEER PRESSURE  is a very real pressure. We all face it. It is not all negative. And we, in turn can put pressure on others.

BUT when we are under pressure to conform to things that go against our faith we have 3 ways to deal with.

To be absorbed.

To become isolated.

To be a Daniel.

Dare to be a Daniel!

Dare to stand alone!

Dare to have apurpose firm!

Dare to make it known!

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