What are some biblical ways to overcome peer pressure?
When the importance of pleasing other people, or being accepted by them, overcomes our desire for God's ways, we experience negative peer pressure. To overcome peer pressure, we must focus on the expectations God has for us instead of the expectations we think others may have for us.
Jesus said that His followers are not of this world (John 17:16). Paul tells us we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Peter wrote, "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:11–12). We need to keep our relationship with God and our relationships with others in proper perspective. Our aim is to please God, not to fit in with the world.
There will be some people, sometimes more than others, who treat us with disdain because of our faith and our Lord, Jesus. Their objection is with God, not you (Luke 10:16). Understanding this may ease our suffering. Other times this understanding fails to provide a balm. Either way, when we keep our focus on God, we can withstand peer pressure. We can look to Him for comfort and for courage. We can bring Him our hurt and trust that He empathizes. We can also trust that He will equip us to obey Him and resist the negative influence of those who would lead us astray.
The Bible doesn't directly address peer pressure, but there are many examples of the crowds or the culture or even the authorities putting pressure, sometimes extreme pressure, on Christians.
Peter and John were jailed (Acts 4), Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 6—7), Paul was tortured, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and more (Read Acts).
Here are some verses that address how to approach peer pressure:
Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Romans 12:14–16: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."
Second Thessalonians 1:3–7: "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."
First Peter 1:13–21: "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God."
Our difficulties may make it seem like other people are our enemies, but the reality is that our struggles are in the spiritual realms: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Paul tells us in this chapter to arm ourselves with spiritual weapons and protection (Ephesians 6).
As we continue to mature in our faith, we become more like Christ (Romans 8:29–30). God will provide for us in all circumstances (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can learn to say, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12–13).
Fall back on Psalm 23, a great comfort for those who suffer. It offers help and encouragement. Share the challenges and hardships of peer pressure with God and ask Him to be your protector and provider. He is able and willing. Continue to develop strong friendships with other believers who can encourage you and support you, and for whom you can do the same (Hebrews 10:24–25; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:1–10).
Remember, too, that those who exert peer pressure over us often have a lack of confidence or a desire to manipulate and intimidate. We can pray that they will come to a better understanding of who God is and who they can be in Christ. We can pray both for them and for us to have a right view of God and a right view of self. We must submit ourselves not to others, but to God alone.
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