I have really enjoyed the opportunity to pause. One of the things that God gave me at the very beginning was an understanding of this season. We had just returned from a trip and I was lying in my bed and telling myself: “You are in a different place than you have ever been. You are in a pandemic. You may not know this because you’re waking up safe and warm in your own bed with (my husband) John. But there is a world out there that is waking up with a different awareness.”
It wasn’t that I wanted to scare myself; I wanted to rouse myself. I heard this scripture in my Spirit: “Tell the righteous it shall be well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their deeds.” I asked John: “Where is this scripture?” because he is like a living concordance. He said: “Oh, that’s Isaiah, chapter three, verse 10.” So I opened it up. And as I began to read, I realised that my deeds in this season are seeds. I am planting for my next season. I said to myself: “I want to sow seeds of generosity. I want to be like Isaac, who sold in a season of famine and reaped a hundredfold.”
It isn’t about money. It’s about making sure that my heart and my spirit and my life do not close down because buildings are closed. And so I said: let’s do a free online course and call it ‘Strong’ [covering material from chapters in her new book]. I recorded nine lessons and said: “We’re going to sow this. The word of God is not constrained. I am not relegated to invitations. I am a minister of the gospel. And that happens because I open my mouth and God fills it.”
Then we realised – how crazy is this? We’re launching a book in a coronavirus, while in isolation. Who even knows if Amazon can ship? But we knew this book Strong is necessary right now. So we decided to make the book available for any donation. We told people, “for your gift of any amount, you can get a copy of the devotional if you’re in the US.” There were people that could only give a dollar. But then there were others who said: “We know this is costing you something and we’re going to give more.”
It has actually has been a test of whether I will hoard or release. Will I self-protect or will I lift other people? This isn’t about promoting a message. It is about living a message of devotion to passion for people; passion for God’s power.
I wrote the book in 2019. Unusually, the publisher came to me and said: “Lisa, we think there is a need for a devotional called ‘Strong’.” And I said: “Oh no. I haven’t got time for that.” And they said: “It will be super easy. Each page is 400 words and it’ll be easy.” It was not easy. It was hard. I am not used to starting and stopping that often. It was a challenge for me. I tried to get out of it a couple times. Then I turned it in and read it out loud in January – I did the audio version and came home and I told John: “Oh, my gosh, this thing is intense.” I wrote it in 90 pieces. I had never read it all the way through. But God knew people were going to need something that was a tool that he could put in their hand and say: “You can be strong.”
God knew that women would need to hear strong is not wrong. God knew that women would need to hear that the wrong that our culture is saying: be angry, be vengeful, be slanderous – that’s not real strength. Real strength comes by the presence of God. The real strength comes when we bless those that curse us. I’m not talking about enabling those. I’m not talking about denying people justice. We need all of that. I’m talking about understanding that I, as a woman, do not get my value by taking it from men. I get my value by actually going over men and getting it from the maker of us all. I get my value from God and not looking for men to be what only God can be for me and to me, and understanding that there is this very real battle going on.
I’ve heard my entire life that “you’re too strong”. I go to a beautiful church in my hometown, and I’ve only spoken there one Sunday. I preached out of James 1:2–8. I was very careful to be expository. What I heard afterwards was: “you’re just too strong”. These are days that require strong. I hope you understand I’m not saying that to be critical. I’m saying that to say I understand. People may think that I don’t hear that anymore because I have a larger platform or more exposure. I hear it all the time, but not from my husband. My husband tells me: “I need you strong. There’s an entire generation of young girls who need you to be who God created you to be.”
It is funny that I am able to do Sundays almost all over the world and yet in my own church, it’s just not so sure. Several times in the Gospels we see Jesus saying, “A prophet is without honour in their hometown amongst their own people.” I feel like it’s good for me. It’s the right weighing of my motives: are you able to go and sit? Are you able to listen or are you going to be prideful and not teachable? I’m hardly ever there just because I’m usually doing Sundays in other places. And right now everybody is closed down. But it is a test. And at the end of the day, people are watching me.
It was in 2007 that I first started to do Sunday mornings. I was at Hillsong in Sydney doing the women’s conference, Colour. I got a call on a Saturday afternoon and it was Pastor Brian Houston. And he said: “I’d love you to do one of the Sunday mornings.” And I said: “No, no, my church doesn’t let women preach.” Pastor Brian said to me: “Lisa, your pastor is not the pastor of my church. I am the pastor of my church. And we believe in women speaking. And the gift on your life, even though it is focused right now towards women, I don’t believe it’s just for women. I want you to be ready to speak tomorrow morning.” I’m going to be honest with you. It was awful. I think I was supposed to speak for 30 minutes. I'm pretty sure I jumped off the stage at 25 minutes. I was sweating.
I kept hearing all of these scriptures that had been put in my life to hold me back and silence my voice. When those kinds of things have been put in our lives, we need a God whisper to say: “Oh, no, no, no. That was never me. That’s never what that meant.” And so it drove me onto a journey: Do I have a voice? Am I easily deceived? God began to take me into the scriptures to understand the context. People say you can’t limit it to the context. Well, you know what? We’re actually superimposing our little Sunday pulpits on the early church. And I think it’s funny that God is like: You’re home now. There’s no pulpit. There’s no Sunday. The early church was house to house breaking bread in fellowship. Women spoke. Men spoke. People all learned together in a posture of humility. There was no written Bible. They spoke of what they’d known, what they had seen, what they’d experienced.
I feel like we are once again being challenged. Are we going to obey what God is saying? God is saying he’s pouring out his Spirit on all flesh and that the sons and the daughters have the privilege and the right to prophesy. What does that mean? It means to release the words of heaven while we walk on earth, that there would be signs and wonders, that there would be disciples. I just hope and pray that we have some resets in hearts during this season.
So don’t take it as an insult when someone says that you’re too strong. Hone it. Refine it. You don’t want to be harsh, but there is nothing wrong with the word strong. The word strong means robust. The word strong means fervent. It means focused. Passionate. Magnificent. Well-seasoned. I love that we need to be people who are well seasoned by this season. Jesus went into the wilderness filled with the Spirit. But he came out. And the power thereof. And I want to come out of this season, in the power thereof. I don’t want to come out saying: “That was exhausting.” I want to come out and say: “Oh, I found out that I don’t live by bread alone. I don’t live by what I can make happen. I don’t live by what I can make and bake. I live by every word that precedes out of the mouth of God. And I have tested God and found him to be faithful.”
Lisa Bevere is a New York Times bestselling author – her books include: Strong, Without Rival, Fight Like a Girl, Lioness Arising and Girls with Swords.
Lisa and her husband John, who’s also a bestselling author and teacher, are the founders of Messenger International, an organisation committed to developing uncompromising followers of Christ who transform their world: messengerinternational.org