This may be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of reluctant biblical leaders! Jonah did not want to preach to the people of Ninevah as God had asked. He was swallowed by a big fish as he fled in the opposite direction to Tarshish but ended up completing his assigned task.
The story in Exodus chapters 3,4 of God calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt is wild when you read all the amazing signs that God used to reassure Moses of his ability to lead. But Moses still said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” WHAT?! So, God sent his brother Aaron to accompany him on his mission.
God charged Gideon with rescuing Israel from the Midianites. Gideon asked, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me” (Judges 6:17). After multiple signs and tests, Gideon believed in his calling and did great things for God.
God had appointed Jeremiah as a “prophet to the nations” to which Jeremiah responded, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (Jeremiah 1:5,6). After God reassured Jeremiah that He would go with him and protect him, Jeremiah set about preaching God’s message faithfully to His very uninterested people.
The prophet Elijah directed that Jehu secretly be anointed King of Israel in place of evil King Ahab. Jehu was reluctant to reveal to his fellow army officers the anointing he had received, but after more pressing, reveals what had happened with their full support (2 Kings 9). Jehu was given the task of eradicating Ahab’s supporters and worshippers of Baal, which he almost accomplished—but did not destroy the idols of the golden calves. “Nonetheless the Lord said to Jehu, “You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation” (2 Kings 10).
6. Simon Peter
Denying Jesus three times, Simon Peter was fearful of being found as one of Jesus’ followers (read the story in John 18). Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him, saying, “So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Even though Peter was reluctant to identify himself as a follower of Christ in that moment, he redeemed himself by strengthening the other disciples and became a pillar of the early church, training others to also follow Jesus.
When the decree is made that all Jews will be killed, Mordecai asks Esther to appear before her King to plead for their lives. Reluctant at first because of the danger when appearing to the King uninvited, Esther eventually faithfully proclaims “though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16).
The story of Ananias is found in Acts 9:10-18, right after Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus and is struck blind. The Lord asks Ananias to go lay hands on Saul to restore his sight. He is reluctant to go to Saul due to his reputation and mission to arrest believers. It’s a happy ending, with Ananias finding Saul saying, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
God gave Samuel the instruction to “fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem” to anoint a new King of Israel after Saul went astray. Initially reluctant because he mourned Saul’s demise, Samuel says “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me” (1 Sam 16:2). After God gives Samuel further guidance, he travels to Bethlehem and anoints David as the future king of Israel.
10. King Saul
When the people of Israel are deciding who will be their king, Saul hides in baggage, aware of what his impending role will be. Check out 1 Samuel chapter 10 for the full story.