In my years as a youth minister, one of the more prevalent topics of concerns among teenagers and parents has been peer pressure. Teenagers want to know how to say “No” when temptation comes knocking at their door. The truth be told, many adults don’t know how to handle peer pressure either. This pressure to do things is all around us. We see advertisements everywhere we look, enticing us to try the latest product, watch the latest movie, sample the latest cuisine. Usually this pressure is harmless enough but sometimes, and with the situations we usually associate peer pressure, it is encouraging us to do something that goes against our convictions.
Peer pressure has been a problem dating back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve said, “C’mon Adam, everyone’s eating these apples.” People of all ages are faced with it. It could come from a classmate who encourages you to make fun of another student. It could come from a guy in the locker room pushing you to try smoking pot. It could come from a co-worker who tells you that everyone takes office supplies home. Maybe the pressure you deal with is a lot stronger than these scenarios. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Bible gives a pretty clear example of how to deal with peer pressure from the account of three young men who faced a pressure greater than most of us could have ever imagined.
If you’re not familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from chapter 3 of the book of Daniel, it is the historical account of three young Hebrew men who had been forced into service in the pagan country of Babylon. The king at the time, Nebuchadnezzar, had built a giant statue of himself made out of gold and issued a command that all the people in the land were to bow down to it. Failure to comply with this request meant you would be thrown into a fiery furnace.
So these three young men are faced with a dilemma: bow down and worship this idol or die a horrible death.
When the time came, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, held their ground and did not bow down. They were brought before the king and they were asked why they chose not to bow down. We have their response recorded in Daniel 3:16-17:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King.”
That’s a pretty bold response! Even though they were face to face with the king, they were convinced of the power of the God they served. They knew that God was capable of rescuing them from the fiery furnace.
Their boldness doesn’t stop there, though. Look at what they say in the very next verse:
“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Talk about guts! We have the benefit of being able to see the whole picture and we know that God did rescue them from that fiery furnace. But these guys didn’t know that was going to happen! They knew it could happen, but they didn’t know it would. It didn’t matter what the result, they were not going to back down from what they knew to be right.
Most of us will probably never find ourselves in a situation as bleak as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I doubt I will ever find myself staring down at a fiery furnace with the command “worship me or die” being shouted at me. The one fact that I, and any other Christian, can take comfort in when faced with any sort of peer pressure is this: we serve the same God as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He is able to rescue us from any “fiery furnace” that we may face. But let us be bold enough to say, “Even if He does not,” we will not back down!
Soli deo gloria,