Week 4, spring 2008 children's teaching material

February 24th 2008
 
Revelation 2: 12-29– Overcoming Peer Pressure.
 
This week we will be looking at the letters John was told to write to the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira.
Again, these are difficult passages to interpret for children, containing many references to sexual immorality. Because of this I would not advocate reading the complete passages as outlined in the title, but rather to select pieces which carry the theme, but which are much easier to interpret.
Both letters carry a similar theme, so we will dip into both as we go.
 
Suggested activity:     Revisit the maps, and identify where Pergamum (modern day Bergama) and Thyatira (modern day Akhisar) are located.
                                    Stress that these letters were written to real communities of Christians, in real places on earth. People may still worship in the very same places today.
                                   
Read Revelation 2: 12-13.
 
Here we see that Pergamum was not a good / safe place for a Christian community.
We’re told it is where ‘Satan has his throne’.
Now, Satan didn’t literally have a palace with a throne in Pergamum, but the majority of the people of this city were worshipping other gods, and also it was a centre for the worship of the Roman ruler, Caesar.
The church – the community of Christians – was very definitely in the minority.
This is not that dissimilar to our situation in England today.
People may not be worshipping other gods or Caesar, but certainly other things command similar levels of adoration.
 
Suggested activity:     Ask the children to think of things people today ‘worship’.
Possibilities could be football teams/players, pop stars, movie stars, money, hobbies, etc.
Ask the children what this ‘worship’ might look like.
Possibilities could be covering bedroom walls with pictures / posters, working ridiculous hours & not seeing family because of this, spending every spare moment doing a particular thing, etc.
 
We see from Rev 2:12-13 that the church in Pergamum remained true to Christ’s name, and did not renounce their faith in Him.
In the atmosphere of being a definite minority there would have been a lot of pressure – peer pressure – to conform to the ‘norm’.
We see that in Pergamum, an extreme place, the pressure to conform even went as far as one Christian, Antipas, being killed for refusing.
Remind the children of the last session, where we looked at areas of the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith – this extreme of death for faith still happens today.
Remind the children to pray for persecuted Christians around the world – check to see if they have written prayers for this in their God journals. Also thank God for where we live, that we don’t have such extreme pressure.
 
If we read on, we see in verse 15 that the Nicolatians were copying somebody called Balak by enticing the church to eat food sacrificed to idols, and later in verse 20, Jezebel misleads Christ’s followers into similar actions.
We can see here the evidence of the peer pressure the Christians in Pergamum and Thyatira were under.
 
Suggested activity:     Ask the children for examples in their own lives of peer pressure they have experienced – maybe share some examples of your own.
                                    This could range from being encouraged by a friend to disobey parents, pressure to watch certain TV programmes or films, pressure to have a mobile phone or latest games console, to smoking, drinking or skipping school.
 
Last time we looked at remaining faithful in the face of testing by the devil. Here we see the need for a similar response.
The word Christ uses here is to overcome.
In verse 17, John writes ‘to him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna’, and in verse 26, ‘to him who overcomes and does my will to the end I will give authority over the nations’.
We are able to overcome the peer pressure by relying on God; by doing the will of Christ (what Christ wants us to do).
This can be in many forms, such as sharing burdens with one another (remember Galatians 6:2, from December 12th?), or through prayer.
We need to stay close to God – to rely on Him for our protection and for help when times are hard. This means regularly talking to God – prayer – and listening to God – reading the bible or sitting in silence.
Overcoming such peer pressure can be hard – we may have the mickey taken out of us, or people may call us names. Remember Antipas – he died resisting such pressure – and be thankful our suffering is small by comparison.
That’s why it’s good to meet as Christians, on a Sunday, or in a mid-week group, so we’re able to share our burdens, to pray for each other, and to praise God together.
 
Suggested activity:     Suggest the children make an entry in their God journal about peer pressure.
                                    This can be something to come back to when either their friends or they themselves are suffering such pressure, or the mockery that comes sometimes from withstanding it.
                                    Include some pertinent scripture verses, such as Exodus 14:13(a), 2 Chronicles 20:17, Luke 21:15, 1 Corinthians 15:58, James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9.
 
What will be the result of standing firm, and resisting peer pressure?
For Pergamum, Christ promises ‘hidden manna’ (2:17). Compare with Exodus 16:2-4(a) & 16:31, and Psalm 78:24. This ‘grain of heaven’ is presently hidden because we are here on earth, but if we remain faithful, and resist pressure to abandon God, we will ultimately reach heaven, and be able to feast on it!
For Thyatira, Christ promises ‘authority over the nations’ (2:26). This would indicate that if we overcome, and are welcomed into heaven, we will be given authority (leadership), with Christ, over the nations (a word encompassing the world which has yet to receive Christ as Lord) – perhaps linked with Christ’s final coming and the world’s final judgement.]
As with Smyrna last time, our prize for remaining faithful and resisting pressure is eternal life.
Which is most appealing; short-term pleasure from giving in to peer pressure, or an eternity of heavenly rewards???

 


Peter Williams, 20/02/2008