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Aside from Jesus himself, few people in Scripture are presented as obvious heroes. Most are portrayed as complicated people, prone to occasional failure, who nevertheless were used by God in extraordinary ways. That’s why they make such great role models for your complicated teen, who also may be prone to occasional failure.

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Here are four women and six men to consider in your search for biblical role models.

Deborah (Judges 4–5)

In an ancient Israelite culture dominated by men, Deborah made a name for herself as a prophet and a judge. People throughout the region came to the date palm tree where she held court to get her rulings on legal, civil, and spiritual matters.

When Deborah had had enough of the Canaanites’ reign of terror in Israel, she urged Barak, an Israelite military commander, to muster an army. Barak agreed, with one condition: that Deborah accompany him in battle.

Esther (Esther 2–8)

As the Jewish queen of Persia, Esther was able to help her people when they were in trouble. But she couldn’t do it without risking her own comfort, security, and safety. She stood up to a powerful opponent, using her intelligence, her connections, her power, and her extraordinary courage. She put her own life on the line to save an entire population.

Ruth (Ruth 1–4)

Ruth’s husband died young, leaving her alone in a culture where being a childless widow meant that you had very little opportunity or hope for the future. Perhaps the only person worse off than Ruth was her mother-in-law Naomi, who was also widowed (and childless after the deaths of her sons). Naomi urged Ruth to leave her and try to find a new husband and start a new family. But Ruth refused to leave someone in such a vulnerable position—someone who needed her. God honored her loyalty in a powerful way.

Mary (Luke 1:26–38)

Mary faced a situation that surely seemed overwhelming. God chose her to be the mother of the Messiah. She must have experienced some doubt and fear—and maybe even a full-blown crisis of confidence. At some point, though, she realized that her concerns paled in comparison to the source of her strength. She expressed her faithful obedience in a simple, yet eloquent, way: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

Joseph (Genesis 37–47)

Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family. After the people closest to him betrayed him, his future looked bleak. Joseph made the most of his bleak situation. He worked hard in a lowly position. He impressed people with his integrity and God-given abilities. He worked his way up to a position of authority, and then he lost it all when someone accused him of something he didn’t do.

Joseph hit rock bottom, but he didn’t give up or give in to self-pity. He maintained his integrity and faith. He worked hard again. He impressed a new group of people. And when his big chance came, Joseph was ready for it. Ultimately, he thrived because he looked at his setbacks in the scope of God’s big picture.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3)

The three Israelite captives in Babylon faced the ultimate test of peer pressure. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar commissioned a giant statue of himself and gave an order. When the statue was unveiled, everyone in the kingdom would bow to it. Anyone who refused would be burned to death in a furnace.

When the statue was unveiled, only three people in the entire kingdom remained standing. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (whose Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) refused to bow—not because they knew God would save them from a fiery death. (They didn’t.) They refused to bow because burning to death in a furnace was a better option to them than dishonoring God.

Simon Peter (Matthew 14:22–33)

It’s possible that no one in the entire Bible made more mistakes than Simon Peter. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends, but he had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Jesus once told him that Satan was speaking through him. Peter was also a big talker. Shortly before Jesus was arrested, Peter vowed that he would always have the Lord’s back. A few hours later, he was telling people that he didn’t even know who Jesus was.

The fact that such a flawed man played such a big role in Jesus’ ministry makes Peter a role model, but there’s something else. One night the disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. They feared for their lives. Their fear turned to terror when they saw a figure walking across the water toward them. The other disciples were relieved when they saw it was Jesus, and Peter was thrilled. During the storm, he jumped overboard, onto the water, to walk with the Lord. God can do mighty things with that kind of exuberant faith.

David (1 Samuel 17)

The great thing about having David as a role model is that Goliath can represent practically anything: a bully, a bad reputation, a destructive habit, or any obstacle that seems insurmountable. We don’t have to be a warrior to overcome what stands in our way. We don’t need training or special skills. All we need is confidence in God and the courage to step onto the battlefield.

Buy your copy of Nelson Bibles Youth Editions in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

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How Can You Find a Biblical Role Model for Your Teen?

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