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 (Manna 92: Be Rooted and Grow)
Youth: Overcoming Subtle Temptations As A Student
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Bianca Wong—Newcastle, UK

Our student years are often when our social life peaks: we meet like-minded people with similar passions and aspirations, and we have more time and opportunities to socialize. However, the world's deceptive glamour has entrapped many through such social activities, masking the evil that separates us from God.

The Bible teaches us that Satan's plans are cunning, calculated, and made-to-measure for us (1 Pet 5:8). This would be frightening if it were not for God's omnibenevolent protection over His children. Yet, like Paul, we may still find ourselves struggling against the recurring evil that we ought not to do (Rom 7:19).


More often than not, the less obvious temptations trip us up the most. Temptations of this nature do not come with flashing and blaring “choose me” signs, and Satan craftily makes them subtle for a reason. They are easily masked by what is deemed normal or acceptable for a student. The pull to sin against God is almost undetectable as we gradually conform to the worldly norm.

Temptations in the form of peer pressure can be spoken, unspoken, direct, and even indirect. No matter what form they take, temptations always force us to choose. Do we succumb to pleasing others and our carnal desires, or do we submit to the word of God?

I recall three incidents where, as a university student, the temptation to please man over God challenged my faith.  

1.    The Temptation to Please Our Peers

Our family and church brethren often encourage us to interact with our university classmates and friends to create opportunities to preach. Although this is a good reason to socialize, we may unwittingly be sucked into the vortex of wanting to fit in with our fellow students by behaving as they do.

FOMO: the “fear of missing out.” We have all felt it before. It is that uncomfortable feeling of knowing that our friends and peers are enjoying themselves without us. But this uneasy feeling recedes when we are aware of the dangers of indulging in sinful worldly activities, such as clubbing and drinking, or when it is apparent that it goes against the commandments of God, such as skipping church services on the holy Sabbath day.

It has gradually become easier to say no in today's society because the world is becoming more accepting of people’s individualism, personal identities, values, and beliefs. The need to “fit in” is not so trendy now.

Nevertheless, subtle and indirect temptations are harder to detect and say no. We may not even realize we have been tempted until after we have sinned and the condition of our heart and faith are exposed. For example, we may find ourselves jumping into conversations to criticize our tutors or fellow students, or complain about assignments and marking schemes. We may even purposely stir up these discussions to gain popularity and build friendships.

This indirect peer pressure tempts us to mimic the sinful behavior we see others doing. On the surface, it may seem to have little impact on our salvation, but the words we choose to speak will reflect the condition of our heart.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk 6:45)

2.    The Temptation to Please Ourselves

We live in a dog-eat-dog world, and university is no exception. University is an institute filled with burgeoning prospects, fuelling the ambition of students to achieve greater things.

We know that if we work hard in our education and secular jobs, we can enjoy the riches of our labor that God grants us (Eccl 5:18–20; 9:10). Peter also reminds us to submit to those who have authority over us (1 Pet 2:18). We must diligently fulfill our duty as students to complete our assignments, attend classes, and follow our tutors’ instructions. However, in this competitive environment, it is tempting to chase after our dreams and neglect the things of God, especially when we compare our academic efforts and achievements with non-believers.

To achieve the best, be noticed, and find ways to fast-track to success are typical aspirations for a student, but these stem from a self-serving desire. Though there is nothing wrong with trying our best, making progress, and serving our secular masters, this competitive mindset can breed discontentment when we only prioritize our own aspirations.

This discontentment can lead us to diminish the severity of keeping the commandments and principles of God, which often takes sacrifice. When we compare ourselves to those who do not have these principles, losing out becomes much more apparent and difficult to bear. For example, we may neglect to observe the holy Sabbath day in its entirety or stop attending fellowships to study more, receive extra credit, and be top of the class.

This temptation to please ourselves clouds God's standards and instead illuminates our own.

3.    The Temptation to Please Our Tutors

Society encourages inclusivity of all beliefs and identities, including LGBTQ rights, religious stances, and gender identity. Although this can benefit our ability to preach and practice our religion, at the same time, it can significantly impact our faith.

As Christians, we must follow the principles of God to obey our secular masters. However, when tutors or those in authority push us to do what is against righteousness and truth, like joining in religious and paganistic festivals or LGBTQ-related events, we are faced with the temptation to please them to gain their favor over pleasing God.

I experienced this struggle during my final year of university. All students in my final year group were fundraising for our prestigious annual graduate design show in London. One event that raises the most money is the Christmas party, held in the last week before the winter break. Although I was not involved in the planning process, my intention of skipping the event did not go unnoticed. My friends were not surprised since I had declined to attend in the previous years. And when my classmates tried to persuade me, I did not waver in my decision.

On the day of the event, my tutor approached me to ask if I was attending the party. This time, I felt immediate pressure. When I said I was not going, he asked me why. I was not brave enough to explain my Christian stance; instead, I responded that I was not the type to go to these social events, all the while hoping for a subject change.

I remember the look of disappointment on his face when he said, “You are supposed to be raising money for your year group, and you are meant to be part of the team. Of all people, I thought you’d be the one to go.”

From that point on, I felt pressure to please my tutor and go to the party. I considered how I could attend without being seen by church members: I could just turn up, greet everyone there and then leave quickly, or even buy a ticket with no intention of going. I ended up swaying by replying that I would think about it. In the end, I did not go to the Christmas party, but I was faced with the guilt of compromising my faith and displeasing my God.


Satan presents these subtle temptations as “normal” societal and student behaviors, which warps our minds and causes us to be desensitized to the pull of sin. Therefore, we must be simple concerning what is evil (Rom 16:19).

The first step is to identify exactly what evil is. Since God is good, it only makes sense to turn to Him for clarity.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13–14)

Only by God's words can we become spiritually mature, able to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. This comes from cultivating a good and regular Bible reading habit.

 We are often reminded that Bible reading is important because there is no better way to ascertain what God regards as evil. Like reading an instruction manual, we learn what we need to do, find solutions to problems, and most importantly, identify what is dangerous (2 Tim 3:16). If we neglect the word of God, it is like throwing away this instruction manual; we become susceptible to danger, failure, and long-term problems.

To be under God’s protection, we must draw close to His word so that it exposes the evil that tempts us. We must implement the principles of God in our lives by developing good habits, and allowing His words to guide our decision-making. Then we can abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess 5:22) and remain safe in God’s preservation.


Like us today, Mordecai was surrounded by those who were not of the truth, pressuring him to go against God’s word. Mordecai understood and demonstrated the need to remain faithful to God’s principles, despite the peer pressure he faced from the king's servants for not bowing down to Haman (Est 3:1–3).

In Esther 3, Mordecai took three actions to resist peer pressure. By observing his actions, we can learn how to stay within God's protection and overcome temptations.

1.        Swift Refusal at the Very Beginning

And all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage. (Est 3:2)

When we face temptation, learn to say no as soon as it appears. Delaying our decision leaves room for overthinking, leading us to compromise our faith. Since carnal lusts war against the soul, we must quickly opt to walk in the Spirit, Who strengthens us to overcome these subtle temptations (1 Pet 2:11; Gal 5:16).

2.        Daily Persistence in His Refusal

Then the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand. (Est 3:3–4a)

Secondly, we must persist in our refusal by clinging to what is righteous. Satan waits for no one, tempting us daily, everywhere we go. Therefore, we must persistently refuse to succumb to peer pressure by conscientiously aspiring to please God. Have faith in God’s promise of rewarding those who endure temptation with the crown of life (Jas 1:12).

3.    Explaining the Reasons for His Refusal 

[F]or Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. …But [Haman] disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him of the people of Mordecai. Instead, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus—the people of Mordecai. (Est 3:4b, 6)

Thirdly, Mordecai explained the reasons for his refusal to bow down to Haman. When we explain to others our Christian stance, we make God and His principles known to man (Ps 40:9–10). When our peers become more accepting of us and our choices, we can, by God’s grace, positively influence them to become righteous before God.

We know that Mordecai was sentenced to execution as punishment, along with the annihilation of the Jews. Similarly, when we hold fast to our faith, we may face difficulties such as mocking, social isolation, missed opportunities, or even more pressure. It may seem as though holding onto the word of God is not worth going through such suffering.

But remember, God protected Mordecai, saved the Jews, and defeated their enemies. Let us look beyond our temporary emotions and physical circumstances and look towards the eternal life of glory, honor, immortality, and peace for doing what is good (Rom 2:7,10).  


As students, we need to hold fast to God’s principles because subtle forms of temptations can significantly impact our spiritual lives. As our social life peaks, we constantly decide whether to please others, please our flesh, or please God. To make these decisions, we need to be simple-minded concerning what is evil by drawing close to God's word.

Furthermore, take active steps as Mordecai did. Although we may seem to lose out or face more challenges, have faith that the decision to please God and cling to His commandments will lead to a long-term reward: salvation.

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Author: Bianca Wong
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 03/03/2022