There’s an APP for That Part 5: Peer Pressure
Matthew 16:21-23 Proverbs 1:10; Ephesians 1:19-20
Pastor Morris Brown
So, I recently ran across a magazine article about centurions. You know, people who’ve lived to be at least 100 years of age. It had a lot of great information, but the best part were the answers the centurions gave to some questions the author asked. For example, when a 107-year old man was asked to describe his “vision” of the future.
He said, “Very brief!” A 105-year old woman, who had never been married was asked why she had given her funeral director specific instructions not to have any male pallbearers at her funeral? She said, “They wouldn’t take me out while I was alive. I’ll be darned if they’re going to take me out when I’m dead!” Finally, there was a 102-year old man, when he was asked to describe the greatest benefit of living past 100 years of age he paused, then he said, “There’s no peer pressure!” Well, maybe there is very little peer pressure for people who are over 100, but for the rest of us peer pressure can be part of life.
For example, over the years I’ve seen it cause nice children to become bullies. I’ve seen it cause teens and young adults to binge drink, engage in promiscuous sex and experiment with illegal drugs. I’ve seen peer pressure cause married couples to go deep into debt for cars or homes they simply can’t afford. And I’ve seen it lead parents to sign their children up for every sport and activity they can think of, just so they’ll fit in.
I’ve seen peer pressure cause working professionals to engage in unethical business practices. I’ve even seen it affect senior adults. As one senior citizen recently told me, “In our youth-oriented society I often feel pressured to ‘look and act younger’ than I truly am.” No matter our stage or station in life from time to time we all experience peer pressure.
In fact, as we heard in our gospel lesson – even Jesus experienced peer pressure! What is peer pressure? Webster’s Dictionary says, “It’s the experience of feeling compelled to behave in certain way in order to gain acceptance or approval of others.” And it can cause us to say or do things that can be damaging to ourselves, others and the world.
So, here’s the question? Does our faith have an APP for peer pressure? Well, I believe it does! As a result, I want to continue our There’s an App for That worship series this morning by exploring some techniques our faith offers to help us resist peer pressure when it “rears its ugly head” in our lives? How does our faith help us resist peer pressure?
First, our faith helps us resist peer pressure by reminding us to pause and consider the problems giving into peer pressure can cause. Proverb 29:20 says, “There’s more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks too quickly!” And Proverb 13:16 says, “Wise people think before they act!” What are these two proverbs saying?
When we feel other people pressuring us to say or do things we might not want to say or do we need to pause and ask, “If I say what I’m feeling pressured to say, if I do what I’m feeling pressured to do, what might the consequences be for me, and for the people I love?” Pausing to ask those questions can save us from a lot of trouble, a lot of problems in life.
Some of you may have seen the story about the death of Petrov Stanislav this week. In case you didn’t, Mr. Stanislav is known as “the man who saved the world”. On September 26, 1983, Stanislav who was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet army was monitoring his country’s satellite air defense system when he noticed some strange activity. His computer screen showed that the United States had launched five nuclear missiles toward the Soviet Union, which would arrive in only twenty minutes. Now, Mr. Stanislav had been trained to immediately notify his superiors if something like this happened, so that nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union could be launched in retaliation.
But, Mr. Stanislav resisted the pressure to do that. Instead, ignoring all of the protocols he had been pressured to follow, he paused. He thought about what might have caused the missile launch to appear, and what would happen if he notified his superiors. And after a few moments it became clear. There had been some kind of computer malfunction.
The United States had not launched any missiles. And because of Stanislav’s ability to resist the temptation to give into the pressure of his superiors, the world had been saved from nuclear holocaust. Here’s the point! Our faith helps us resist peer pressure by reminding us to pause and think about the problems giving in to peer pressure may lead to in our life!
Second, our faith helps us resist peer pressure by reminding us to surround ourselves with positive people. Proverb 13:20 says, “You can become wise by walking with the wise. Or you can hang out with fools and watch your life fall apart!” Sometimes the best way to resist negative peer pressure is to expose ourselves to positive peer pressure!
Why? When we surround ourselves with the positive people who set good examples for us, who encourage us to do positive things, who provide a positive influence on our lives - it keeps our lives on a positive track! I love the story of the Duke, Carolina, State and Wake Forest fans that were flying to the ACC tournament in a small plane.
The plane began having engine trouble and the pilot informed the fans that if the plane would go down if three of them didn’t jump out. Feeling like he should set a positive example, the Wake Forest fan opened the door, said, “Go Deacs!” and jumped out of the plane. Seeing this, the NC State fan began to feel positive peer pressure. So, he stood up. He opened the plane door, cried, “Go Pack!” and jumped out. Incredibly inspired by his example, the Carolina fan felt the positive peer pressure. So, he too stood up. He too opened the door. And then cried, “Go Heels!” and he pushed the Duke fan out of the plane!
Okay, maybe that’s not the best example of the way positive peer pressure works! But it does work! As Dennis Waitley puts it in his book, Empires of the Mind, “We must understand that who we chose spend our time with, who our role models will be, who we will draw inspiration from can have an incredibly impact on our lives – negative or positive. So, if we want to resist peer pressure we must pay attention to the company we keep!”
A third way our faith can help us resist peer pressure by encouraging us to practice before the pressure is on. As you heard in our gospel story Peter tried to pressure Jesus at a significant moment in his life. But, if you read the gospels you’ll discover this was not the first time Jesus faced peer pressure. There were other less significant times.
There were many other instances where people tried to pressure Jesus into doing or saying things he didn’t want to say or do. What Jesus did, however, was use each of those ‘smaller moments’ to practice resisting the pressure of his peers. By doing this, by practicing, he was able to resist peer pressure when it happened at a ‘critical moment’ in his life.
In this way, Jesus reminds us that practicing how we will resist peer pressure before it happens, can be a key to helping us handle it when it does. I was thinking about that this week as I was reading an article about Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots. Now, I’m not a big Bill Belichick or Patriot’s fan. But, I have to admit something. I have to admit that under Belichick’s leadership the New England Patriots have had great success. They’ve made 7 Super Bowl appearances and won five NFL championships! So, other than “deflate gate” what does Belichick do that contributes to all this success? According to the article what Belichick does is have his team practice “situational football!”
You see, every week in practice Belichick has his team do practice drills that simulate challenging situations that the Patriots might face in a live, high-pressure, game-on-the-line moments of the season. Things like: last minute field goals, playing in extreme heat, bitter cold or a heavy downpour, fake punts, on-side kicks and anything else he can dream up!
“Doing this,” running back Dion Lewis says, “Working on and preparing for hundreds of situations that may happen in real time at every practice, every day not only makes you ready for it when it happens in a game, it makes your positive reaction second nature! Practicing those situations over and over is what has made us such a consistently winning team!’’
As you can see, Bill Belichick knows that if his team is going to be ready when the pressure is on they have to practice responding to what might happen before it happens. Well, what’s true for football is also true for dealing with peer pressure. If we want to be able to handle peer pressure when it happens in the game of life, we need to practice.
As one psychologist says, “Peer pressure is going to happen. So, what we need to do is talk about it before it happens. And, practice how we will respond to it when it does. For studies continually show that role playing and practiced responses to peer pressure before it takes place, enables children, teens and adults make better decisions when it does.”
Finally, to resist peer pressure our faith reminds us we need to rely on the power of God through prayer. You see, stopping to ask ourselves if giving in to peer pressure will lead to problems, surrounding ourselves with positive people, and practicing are great ways to resist peer pressure. But, doing these things is not enough.
As a result, in order to deal with peer pressure, we need to rely on a power greater than ourselves. We need to rely on the power of God. You know, our gospel story doesn’t mention it, but I am absolutely convinced that Jesus found the power he needed to resist the peer pressure he experienced in his life because he has an incredibly active prayer life.
Through his life of prayer Jesus experienced the truth that God loved and accepted him just as he was. As a result, he didn’t have to give into peer pressure to fit in or be accepted by others. And through the practice of prayer Jesus was filled with the power of God’s Spirt, who gave him the power he needed to resist peer pressure when it occurred.
I’m reminded of the story of the little boy who was put in “time out” for misbehaving. After a while he came and told his mother that everything was okay now because while he was in “time out” he’d spent some time in prayer. “Great”, his mother said, “If you pray and ask God to help you stop misbehaving, God will help you!”
“Oh”, the little boy responded, “I didn’t ask God to help me stop misbehaving. I asked God to help you put up with me when I do!”
Seriously, whether we need God’s help to stop misbehaving or to resist peer pressure, God will provide the help, the strength we need. You know, the scriptures remind us of this over and over again.
For example, in Ephesians 1:19, Paul says, “There is a tremendous is the power available to those of us who believe in God. For the power working in us is the same power God used to raise Christ Jesus from the dead.”
And in 2 Timothy 1:7, he says, “God will not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self- control.”
We all want to be able to resist negative peer pressure. But, if we are going to be able to do that, we need to connect to a power that lets us know we are loved and accepted as we are, and gives us the strength we need to resist peer pressure when it occurs in our lives. The good news is that power if available to us. But, in order to receive it, we need to do what Jesus did - engage in prayer each and every day.
I once heard a story about a teacher who was sitting at her desk grading papers when her 1st grade class came back from lunch. When they did, a little girl told her that Timmy had to go to the principal’s office!
“Why?” the teacher asked.
“Because,” the little girl said, “He’s a following person!”
“A following person?” the teacher questioned. “What’s that?”
“I don’t know,” the little girl child responded. “But at lunch the principal came over the intercom and said, ‘the following persons need to come to the office! And Timmy stood up and went!”
Listen, none of us want to be “following persons”! We don’t want to be people who give into peer pressure – especially when it leads us down a negative path!
The truth however, is peer pressure is something we all experience in our lives. So, how do we deal do it? Our faith says we do with it by pausing to consider the problems giving in to it might cause, by surrounding ourselves with positive people, by practicing our response to it before it happens, and by relying on God’s power through prayer.