There was an older teen in Youth Opportunities United who dominated in basketball, and I was among many who wanted to be like him. If he had played in one of our Imperial Academy or S.E.P. games, he would probably have scored 100 points. He played for the Milwaukee Cavaliers, and they beat every Y.O.U. team that year. They were so good they had no one left to play but themselves. They split the team in half and played the best game I ever saw—triple overtime.
Randy was a high school junior on that team. At that point, I didn’t really know who he was, but I was about to find out. In this game, he got a rebound and dribbled down court. The defenders were moving back to get ready to block the shot. Randy decided to jump and dunked on all of them. The gym went crazy.
By his senior year of high school, Randy’s school had changed the entire basketball schedule from Friday nights so he would not miss a game. They finished within one game of going to the state tournament.
Randy was nice. He would come talk to us, say hello, and let us play with him. We all wanted to play like Randy. We emulated him in a lot of ways. Watching Randy play was a beneficial experience because it built positive peer pressure within the younger teens.
God’s teens need to build positive peer pressure today. Older teens may be surprised by how many of you are heroes for the younger ones. At God’s Summer Educational Program, the younger campers should be inspired to look up to the examples of the older teens. They should watch the marquee matches and think, I want to be out there. We occasionally allow for too much negative peer pressure, but positive peer pressure instills a spark.
Positive peer pressure can be built in everything we do. Find people who excel in sports, music, dance or academics and emulate them. As you succeed, people will want to emulate you. We want to build a culture of excellence, which is done by individual choice. Everyone has something he or she can excel in; everyone has the potential to become a hero.
Fighting a Giant
David set the example of building courageous, positive peer pressure, and God’s youth should follow his example.
1 Samuel 17:2-4 say, “And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.”
Goliath was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 feet tall. For perspective, the overhang of the John Amos Field House is 9 feet high. So imagine Goliath blocking your entrance to lunch. You probably wouldn’t eat. Goliath was huge and stood there, taunting Israel.
Here is a little perspective to help you wrap your mind around that massive size. André the Giant was a sort of modern-day giant. He was about 7 feet 4 inches tall, while Goliath was 10 feet or taller. André weighed about 500 pounds, but in comparison to Goliath, he wouldn’t be considered big.
One time, some college guys saw André and thought it would be funny to taunt him, so they started throwing peanuts at him. André ignored them, but finally, he’d had enough. As he stood up, the students took off running and locked themselves into their car. He followed and turned their car upside-down, with them inside. That’s how the police found these students—locked inside an upside-down car. Life is different for giants. That gives some perspective on how big and strong André was—and he was small compared to Goliath.
Goliath was a trained warrior and killer. He knew how to fight. Some estimates say that his spearhead weighed about 25 pounds. Try throwing a pole with a 25-pound weight at its end.
Verses 8-11 says, “And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.”
The peer pressure at this point was to cower in fear. I hope there were a couple soldiers thinking: I could probably take him. But maybe they mentioned that to a buddy who responded: Are you crazy? Have you seen how big that guy is? Terror permeated the entire group.
“And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days” (verse 16). In the Bible, 40 often symbolizes a time of testing. Israel was being tested for 40 days, with Goliath coming out in the mornings and the evenings. God’s Work is characterized by morning and evening sacrifices (2 Chronicles 13:11).
Instead of going and praying to God in the mornings and evenings like they should have, the Israelites listened to the taunts of this giant. Goliath came at the times they should have been giving sacrifices to God. They were weak because they were not focusing on the quality of their prayer lives.
1. To build positive peer pressure, listen to God, not Satan.
Israel listened to Goliath’s taunts instead of going to God. We can often let Satan taunt us. He’s very negative and tells us we can’t do things. We have to draw close to God and listen to what He says. Satan says: You can’t do this. He’s the one being negative. Don’t listen to those influences. Shut them out!
God tells us if we obey Him, then we will be blessed. He encourages us to choose life! But Satan is there with another message. Make sure you’re listening to God and not Satan. You can excel and do more than you think, but you must listen to God.
Now David comes into the story, “And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle” (1 Samuel 17:20). David was not in the military, but he had been sent with food.
Verse 23 says, “And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.” Goliath did the same thing as before; the only difference this time was that David heard him.
David had a different response, “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (verse 26).
David showed no fear! Is that your response to negative peer pressure? Who is he to defy God? Negative peer pressure is defying God—it’s an attack against Him. This is God’s Church, and if someone is negative toward it, they are defying God, not men.
David was told that whoever defeated Goliath would be given a lot of wealth, the king’s daughter, a free house in Israel—some pretty awesome rewards.
Verses 28-29 say, “And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?”
2. To build positive peer pressure, don’t give into negativity but focus on the cause.
Anytime you are striving to do something positive, there is a negative push against you. That can come from your own thinking or from someone else. Has that ever happened to you? You set a goal that you thought was possible until someone else said: You can’t do that. Then you quit.
If you should do it, then who cares what anyone else says? Just do it! Do not give into the negativity of others, and be careful not to be the source of negativity.
Focus on the cause. If it’s worth doing, then do it. Someone else’s negativity doesn’t matter. If they have good advice, then listen—but don’t listen to negativity. David had a cause: He wanted to defend Israel and God.
1 Samuel 17:33-37 say, “And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.”
3. To build positive peer pressure, build on past successes.
David had not fought a giant before, but he had killed a bear and a lion. He thought, if I did that, why can’t I do this? Think of all the things you can do now that used to be mysteries. When you were little, tying your shoes seemed like magic. But you figured it out, and now it’s simple. Build on those areas in life that are now simple. Let those successes lead you to future success.
Take some time to write down a list of your successes. In what areas have you been successful? When you stop building on past success, your skills will diminish.
Think about nba superstar Steph Curry. He has had games when he couldn’t sink his threes. Do you think that really bothers him? No! He knows he has made a ton before and will again.
Follow David’s example and focus on when you have succeeded.
“And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17:44). This is war-level trash-talking that David had to deal with. Goliath raised it to another level: I’m going to kill you!
“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (verse 45) David’s focus was centered on the cause: the purpose and reason for doing what needed to be done!
“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (verses 46-47).
4. To build positive peer pressure, keep God at the center of the process.
David knew God was in the middle of the cause. If God is not at the center of our goals, then they are not worth striving after; if He is, then go after them fully! You participate in God’s educational programs—God’s Imperial Academy, God’s S.E.P., God’s Herbert W. Armstrong College. The better we uphold God’s standard, the more we honor and glorify God!
Build positive peer pressure so others are inspired to follow your example. As long as God is at the center, it’s going to be an awesome process. Goliath would have easily killed David had God not been at the center of David’s process. David did his part, and God delivered him.
If you are unsure of what direction to go, ask: Is this God’s will? Ask Him for the help and direction you need.
5. To build positive peer pressure, get busy!
Verses 48-49 say, “And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.”
You have to do something. If David only spoke to Goliath, without taking action, this story would not have been recorded. It’s one thing to talk—it’s another to do. Why not become the best soccer player or basketball player we’ve ever seen at S.E.P.? You should think about this more: Why not me? This is not for vanity’s sake but to become the best you can be.
God’s young men have to take the lead. Get busy—be successful—drive yourself—be proactive—do something! You can have a lot of goals, but if you don’t do anything about them, they don’t mean anything. Have a goal in mind and put the work in to achieve success.
“Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron” (verses 51-52).
The Israelite army got a shot of courage because they saw one young man do something. Positive peer pressure started with only one man! This gave them the courage to chase after the Philistines and defeat them.
David did not just kill Goliath; he killed the negativity! He killed the fear and caused everybody to have the courage to fight. Positive peer pressure spread quickly. Everyone in the Israelite army wanted to get in on the action.
Why can’t we do the same thing? Why can’t we have more of this positive peer pressure?
Walk with some pep in your step. Look alive and like you care about what matters. You can do that today. Someone can confidently walk into a room, and you know they are all business. Or someone walks in with a slouch and you think, What’s the point? Go back to bed! Young men: Lead the way, and be the one to walk with confidence.
2 Samuel 23 talks about David’s mighty men. He built a culture of men who wanted to do great things because of David’s example. This chapter is full of amazing feats in battle. “And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David [there were more than three; just three are named here], when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away” (verse 9).
These men killed giants and ferocious beasts, but it started with David. This is the positive peer pressure we need to be building at S.E.P., IA and AC. One person can stand strong and be the leader people want to follow. It all comes down to your actions and how you conduct yourself.
Verse 20 says, “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow.” Insert your name there! Could you take action like Benaiah? This is not fantasy. These men had courage and built a warrior culture based on positive peer pressure. Their legacy is recorded.
What will your legacy be? Will you be talked about five years from now? Will they say: Were you there when so-and-so did this? Why not? Listen to God. Conquer negativity by focusing on the cause. Build on past successes. Keep God at the center of your progress and get busy! Strive to build a culture of positive peer pressure.