Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't be a Crowd Follower!!

If you were to list your top 10 worries for your kids and grandkids, I bet negative peer pressure would make your list.

Peer pressure is strong, and getting stronger with each generation. But peer pressure isn't just for kids; I find myself, and you probably do too, in situations where it is easier to just "go along to get along", right?? So... how do we set the example for our kids and not be a crowd follower, when Jesus calls us to follow Him, no matter where it might take us?


Daniel was born into royalty in the land of Judah. Coming from wealth and royalty meant he received the best possible education of that time. His life was mapped out for him from the very moment of his birth and it looked like he was destined for something really big; and he was, just not in the way his family expected. When Daniel was a teenager, everything he had ever known and loved was taken from him when Nebuchadnezzar, (Neb) king of Babylon invaded Judah and took all the royal seed back to Babylon to serve in the king's court.

The king took special interest in Daniel and his 3 close friends, and instructed his chief eunuch, Ashpenez, to look for certain qualities in their character and physical abilities. Ashpenez was instructed to speak with each young man and discern his wisdom and knowledge of science. They were to be taught the language, customs and ways of the Chaldeans. King Neb wanted these young men to be poised, confident, not slaves but always in submission. They were to be assets to the King's court, we might call them "window dressing".

After Ashpenez determined each young man's level of intelligence, and where he would serve the king, he placed them under the care of the "prince of the eunuchs". The primary way their culture brought captives into submission was to starve them, or at the least, give them sub-standard food and drink. But King Neb instructed that these young men be fed food from his own table, and wine from his private stock. And I love Daniel 1:9; God "brought Daniel into favor with the prince of the eunuchs."

Leaders are "attractive" to followers. As a follower, Ashpenez recognized a leader, and God, through his Holy Spirit prepared the way for Daniel to be a successful leader. Leaders are confident, level headed, use good judgment, show compassion, mercy, and understanding. In other words, leaders just naturally stand out!

Ashpenez changed their Hebrew name to a Babylonian name. The Babylonians were determined to strip them of their Hebrew identity. By changing their names, they believed they could change them. The Babylonians were superstitious people who worshipped many gods. They started with a name change, believing that in time, they could change everything about them. But they hadn't counted on a Daniel.

You and I are not destined to be followers. God has placed within the framework of each of His children the power, the strength, the fortitude to be leaders. Now granted, leaders are leaders on different levels, but we can all be leaders when it comes to standing up for truth, for right, for God and His principles. The key thing is, leaders are not born....they are prepared.

Here are 3 things that you can begin to do today to prepare yourself, your kids, your grandkids to be leaders.

1. Know what you believe, why you believe it, and what you are going to do about it.
Daniel and his friends had convictions that were instilled in them long before they were taken from Judah, and v8 says they were "determined". When he was told what he was to eat and drink, he already had the conviction in place and he knew without a doubt what he believed about; it was a "no-brainer". The food and drink were out, even if he had to give his life.

What do you believe about drinking alcohol, sexual purity, lying, returning good for evil, etc, and do your kids know what you believe and why? Can you show them from God's word why you believe what you believe? When we know what we believe, why we believe it, and how we are going to respond when faced with the temptation, and our kids know that about us, it will be so much easier for them to say no; to not conform to the crowd's way of thinking. Mom and Dad are powerful influences. Somebody in Daniel's life knew what they believed and taught him the truth and the neat thing is, grandparents are great at instilling convictions in their grandkids. We are a whole lot wiser (hopefully) today than when we were raising our own kids. When I think of David and me as parents in our early 20's, it's a wonder any of us survived. (only by the grace of God Almighty!!) As a grandparent, be ready to share with them your convictions about the social issues they are hearing about; you'll be surprised at how well they listen. (sometimes, especially during the teen years, kids will tell their grandparents things they wouldn't think of telling their parents. Be ready!!)

2. Daniel had a plan. When your 5 year old begins kindergarten, she is going to hear some language she doesn't hear at home. What's your plan? When your teen hears theories about creation that are different from what she has learned at home and church, what's your plan? When the parents of your son's friends are allowing them to go on unsupervised campouts, or to R rated movies, what's your plan? Read Daniel 1, verses 11 and 12; Daniel had a plan: he went to the prince of the eunuchs and made a request. You know the old saying, "It never hurts to ask"? When you are asked to do something at work that you feel is wrong, speak up and say, "I feel this wrong" and use Daniel's words, (v8) "I request to be excused from this." After all, God's very own Word is the most powerful tool we have in stating our convictions. His written Word, spoken to our situation brings supernatural power that can bring change. God can do the same thing for you that He did for Daniel; He gave Daniel favor with the prince of the eunuchs and he granted Daniel's request. Daniel had a plan. Your kids may not like your plan, the girls at work may not like your plan, just make sure God does, then leave the consequences to Him.

3. The best way to not give in when the pressure is on is to see the big picture; see the purpose in not following the crowd.
In 1 Corinth. 15:33, Paul warned the Corinthians that "bad company corrupts good morals." Now, I haven't found a way in this world we live in to avoid bad company all together, but we all have a say in who our friends are. Ask God to give you good friends who will compliment your relationship with Christ. (and please, please, please, pray that prayer for your kids and grandkids.)

Daniel's purpose, his goal, was to make it through captivity without compromising his integrity and his devotion to God. And he did it! Your teenager needs reminding that high school doesn't last forever, neither will their college years, and some of the compromises we make during those years can come back to haunt us. But when we know what we believe and why we believe it, (and we get that through much time spent in the Word, in prayer, and being involved in a good, Bible believing church) having a plan for handling the peer pressure, and can see the big picture, (not just what is front of us) we got ourselves a leader!!
In v8, what did Daniel believe about the king's food and wine?
In v12, what was Daniel's plan?
In v14, how did the prince of the eunuchs feel about the plan?
In v15, did the plan work?
In v17, how did God reward Daniel and his friends for their choices? (there's a reward in the big picture.)
In verses 18-20, did the king have 4 outstanding leaders?

If you are like me, sometimes you get tired of being the only one who has to say "no". And sometimes it is so much easier and less stressful to just keep silent when those around you are saying things like "there is no absolute truth" or, "everyone is free to do what they think is right". But leaders don't do what is easy; they do the hard things. Start small; find a scripture that supports one thing you have a conviction about. Then, make a plan; decide what you are going to do when faced with the decision of following your conviction, or going along with the crowd to keep peace. And then, what's the big picture? What will be the consequences years from now if I choose to keep silent, or if I choose to give into temptation?

Leaders inspire others to be leaders.
Love to hear from you. Have a great day. Penny