Beyond Blessed by Robert Morris
2020, book #23: “The ability to delay gratification — to wait for something we really want — is one of the rarest and most powerful skills in our culture.” — Robert Morris
Finished on April 9, 2020
After Robert Morris was a guest pastor at my church last year, he spoke briefly about this book. I ordered it right away as I had recently finished his first book on the topic of giving The Blessed Life (linked here).
You must show that you can be trusted with the few things that you’ve been given. What are you going to do with what is in front of you today? What about the things of the future? Are you like a river that God can flow His resources through or are you more of a reservoir that wants to maintain everything for themself?
Pg. 30, Quite simply, you can’t expect God to shower you with more resources if you’re still mismanaging the ones He’s already given you this can sound harsh, but it is actually God’s mercy in action. There are many believers that God simply cannot bless with great wealth because He knows it would destroy them. Few people understand that abundance is a far tougher test of character than poverty.
Again, what are you living for in this life, is it for something greater than solely the earth? We are living on a magnificent planet but it is temporary and one day — as with everyone else — you will die… then what? Jesus said it very clearly in Matthew chapter 6, “store up for yourself treasures in heaven.”
Pg. 41, I’m sure you’ve heard of an investment vehicle called an IRA. The acronym stands for individual retirement account. Perhaps you have one. If so, good for you! But what is the status of your ERA? Did you even know that you have an ERA? It stands for eternal retirement account, and it’s the heavenly storehouse where you lay up treasure when you put God and the advancement of His kingdom first.
You can only make deposits into your ERA while you’re on this earth. Some believers would be in trouble if they died today, because the deposits they’ve made are very meager.
This was a very important point but one that I was not familiar with previously. How can you reap where you did not sow? You take from someone else, that’s the only way. The author made it abundantly clear that God could never reap where He has not sown since He created everything that is and was and is to come. This was the part of the sermon at my church that really piqued my interest and led me to be overwhelmingly interested in studying this book.
Pg. 42, The one-talent steward told his master that he reaps where he hasn’t sown, essentially accusing the master of unjustly profiting from the labor of others. Yet how can someone who owns everything reap where he hasn’t sown?
(I wrote “that’s new to me, huh, wow”)
I always strive to revert back to the Bible. If there is anything that I am unsure of or something that I need to confirm, I look to the Bible. God’s Word is very clear and there is not much, if anything, left to interpretation. It’s quite clear how God wants us to live out our days on earth and how He wants us to manage what He has blessed us with.
Pg. 60, Our enemy is constantly trying to confuse us on this point. He’s always whispering in our ears to move us into either a poverty or materialism mindset. It might be a message like:
Go ahead and put the pursuit of wealth first in your life right now. Once you get rich through your own efforts, then you’ll be free to put God’s agenda first. Your wealth will be a sign that God is pleased with you.
Or it could be one like:
God doesn’t want His people to have anything in this life. All your rewards are in heaven. See all those wealthy Christians over there? They’re sellouts. They’re compromisers. You’re a better Christian than they are.
Perspective is everything yet sadly, it seems that much of society is losing the ability to look at things in the bigger picture. Why do people take things out of context so regularly. Why do people draw conclusions based off of the limited amount of information that they have? I’m not sure — but it’s not helpful. There are so many things beneath the surface that we simply will not or can not understand.
Pg. 72, Please understand that when the resources entrusted to a poor steward are reduced, this is not God being mean or hard. This is His kindness in operation. Increasing the resources available to a poor steward would damage both the steward and hamper the vital progress of God’s kingdom activity on earth. That activity is redemptive. The eternal destinies of billions of souls hang in the balance. The kingdom of God on earth is an enterprise created to share the gospel with every person.
If you can’t spend wisely, you’ll never be able to save. If you can’t save, you’ll never be able to give. It’s a process that compounds one on top of another. We need to do all things at once and use all three parts together. It is not enough to solely be frugal with what we already have, we must be prudent and prepare what we will have. Which one is most important to me? The answer is yes — we need all three. In the present day, though, saving is the highest priority for me, it’s an area that I have lots of room to grow. Some of my close advisors have suggested that I decrease my levels of generosity to save more — I think I’d rather increase my income instead.
Pg. 79, Let me tell you something I’ve learned about good stewards. I’ve known lots of outstanding, successful stewards in God’s kingdom over the years. I’ve carefully observed their lives and disciplines because I wanted to learn from them. In the process I’ve discovered that all good stewards do three things:
- They spend wisely
- They save diligently
- They give generously
We are in charge, we make the decisions. God has already outlined which decisions should be made but it’s entirely up to us if we are going to be good stewards and abide in Him and abide by His commands.
Pg. 79, You are the chief financial officer of your one-and-only life. The tricky thing about being a subsidiary in this kingdom is that it is largely invisible. It is spiritual. Heavenly. And an invisible God is enthroned at the head of a very long conference table.
Amen to this. I have many areas in my life that I would like to increase — such as the food I’m eating (I’d rather not have to cook and would like high quality meats and freshly prepared vegetables daily). Yet, even with that, there is nothing I could be more thankful or grateful for than the life that I live right now today. I’m finally back to a point where every single day is the best day of my life.
Pg. 106, A heart for faithful stewardship begins by being genuinely thankful for the lifestyle and standard of living you have now.
STRONG. This is a tough one to swallow. God will give us enough if we are abiding in Him, won’t He? Go read your Bible and decide for yourself but I’ve seen that He will lead people into something only if He also intends to bring them through it. We must remain in a place that allows us to hear His voice.
Pg. 108, I vividly remember saying, “God, I don’t understand. I see you providing for others but you’re not providing for me. Look at this. I can’t pay my bills!” Would you like to know what our God kindly and patiently said to me in reply? He said, “Robert, I’m not responsible for bills I didn’t tell you to incur. I’m not responsible for debts that I didn’t tell you to take on. You signed your name on that note without talking to me about it. I didn’t sign my name on it.”
Good stewardship. And what does God do when people are good stewards in the way that He has intended for us to be? He blesses us. It’s once again, the parable of the three servants; those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much. Which are you? Someone who can be trusted with the resources in your possession? Or someone who even when you have something, should have it taken from you because you cannot manage it?
Pg. 113, The core truth I want you to take away from this book: When we begin to set our finances in order, God supernaturally blesses us! It’s more than just the numbers in the budget adding up mathematically. God begins to bless our “fish and loaves” as Jesus did when He fed the multitudes! Please don’t miss this! God blesses good stewardship in the same way that He blesses generous giving!
Rare, so so so so rare. There are not many people that I have encountered who can truly delay the receipt of what they desire. But those who can? They have the power. The people who want things now and yesterday? They’re the ones who are leasing cars, wearing designer clothing, and going out to the best restaurants in town BEFORE they are in a foundational position to do so comfortably. The financial saying that many live by is, “if you can’t pay for it twice, don’t buy it.”
Pg. 121, The ability to delay gratification — to wait for something we really want — is one of the rarest and most powerful skills in our culture.
Can you imagine if people were still required to save up 50% of a home? Wild. Now there are so many $0 down mortgages and numerous other things that buyers can do. People today aren’t really required or incentivized to be good stewards before buying a home.
Pg. 137, With those first mortgage loans in the 1930s you couldn’t borrow more than 50 percent of the property’s market value. In other words, borrowers had to have a 50 percent down payment. Today the typical loan length is thirty years, but back then the repayment schedule was spread over three to five years and ended with a balloon payment. In other words, if you borrowed money to buy a house, you ended up owning it free and clear in no more than five years.
Today you can finance a car for eight years! A car! Anyone foolish enough to do this will be “upside down” on the vehicle for most, if not all, of its useful life.
“God has promised to provide for our needs and declared plainly that we’ll find real happiness only in our relationship with Him.” This is vital to understand and keep front of mind. Some people don’t want to be prudent and think about the future because they are so focused on doing everything that they can today; that was never God’s design. What you can do in the future is going to be greater than what you can do today but you must trust in God and prepare your fields for harvest.
Pg. 143, Trust Is the Key:
As we’ve seen, some Christian people steal. They may steal from others. Or, more commonly, they steal from their own futures. The question is why. I believe there is only one reason some Christians steal. It can only be because they don’t trust God to provide for them. God has promised to provide for our needs and declared plainly that we’ll find real happiness only in our relationship with Him. We could only steal — from others or from ourselves — if we don’t believe Him. We don’t believe He is good, faithful, and trustworthy. We don’t really believe He will provide. We don’t believe there is enough for us. We don’t trust Him to bless us, so we take it into our hands to bless ourselves.
The bottom line is don’t be a slave to immediate gratification. Don’t steal from your own future. Learn to wait and you’ll experience real joy. Learn to save and you will have more than enough. In the next chapter, I’ll share a powerful attribute that will help you do all that and more.
Where do you go once you hit the top? Jump off. We need to be wary of the motives behind our goals and realize that if we are working for our own glory, it will always be unfulfilling. So, who do you do it for? All the things that you are doing, the goals that you have set, why?
Pg. 156 and Pg. 157, I know a very smart, highly driven man who, right out of college, made it his life goal to attain a certain level of wealth by the age of forty. He worked relentlessly, with a tremendous, almost obsessive focus to become successful. And he did. In fact, when he reached his fortieth birthday, he had indeed attained his goal. He could retire and never have to think about money for the rest of his life.
As he finished his testimony, I’ll never forget what this gentleman said next. “Robert, do you want to know what the first forty years of my life taught me? I learned that if your goal is to climb to the top, there is only one thing left to do when you reach your goal. Jump off. There is nowhere else to climb.”
100%. Each of these three areas of goal setting are so important and valuable. Keep God the core part of all that you do, ensure the motives are clear, and understand what success is for your goal. Then get to work. It’s little by little and day by day but God can do more in a moment than man can do in a lifetime.
Pg. 181, First of all… pray! Ask the spirit of God for clarity of vision and purpose so you can aim at the right target or targets. You’re not on your own here! God is your eager and powerful partner in this endeavor to align your life with His wisdom and ways. Involve Him in every facet.
Secondly, don’t set goals to impress others, or be pressured into goals that are based on someone else’s values. If a goal doesn’t spring from your heart and vision (and that of your spouse if you’re married), you’ll run out of steam when the going gets tough. The most important aspect of a goal you’ll actually achieve is that it is your goal.
Thirdly, an effective goal must be specific and measurable. A desire to “be a better person” isn’t really a goal. It’s more of a sentiment.
Goals must be specific. You need to be able to sit and visualize yourself and truly feel yourself in a position with the goal being achieved. What is going to happen once you achieve this goal? If you don’t have that figured out, how can you even think that you are ready to achieve any type of goal?
Pg. 182, Well-crafted goals are also very specific. The more specific the goal, the more power to pull you forward it contains. Jack Canfield, cocreator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, summarizes this kind of specificity by simply asking, “How much by when?” He writes,
“(A goal) must meet two criteria. It must be stated in a way that you and anybody else could measure it. I will lose 10 pounds is not as powerful as I will weigh 135 pounds by 5 o’clock on June 30. The second is clearer, because anybody can show up at 5 o’clock on June 30 and look at the reading on your scale.”
Obedience. If God knows all and created all… how can we ever think that our plans are going to be greater than his? We can’t. That’s absurd. It’s wild to think that we make plans without even consulting our Creator; we could not come anywhere near what God has envisioned for us on our own.
Pg. 193, Today Steve Dulin teaches that the key to high-level stewardship is seeking God and doing what He tells you to do. And in the absence of a specific word or instruction, simply follow the basic stewardship principles from God’s Word that we are exploring in this book. Steve says,
“It wasn’t just that we started giving more, although that was one-third of God’s instruction to us. If I hadn’t also been intentional about getting out of debt and saving more, I’m not sure we would have seen the miraculous increase that we saw. We can’t just obey what we want to obey and ignore the rest. God gave me three things to do. So, I went and did those three things, with His help. Obedience to what God is saying is the operative principle.
Contentment: how hard it is to come by. We see so many people who have more money than maybe we could imagine and we think that it would be so grand to live like that. Yet, they’re miserable and struggling on the inside. Why? They’ve likely fallen into the trap of money lust. They’ve been lusting after wealth for so long that they now don’t have a reason to enjoy it, they already acheived their unfulfilling goal of making a lot of money. We must remember to be content no matter the circumstances; and do so every. Single. Day.
Pg. 197, No, it is the “love of money” that the Word sternly warns us about, as well as a lust to be rich. In the earlier chapter on contentment and the Spirit of Mammon, we saw that looking to riches for happiness or a sense of significance is a form of idolatry. No wonder a lust for wealth can “drown men in destruction and perdition.” That’s the inevitable end result of all idol worship.
If you want to live below your means, the most important thing you can do is learn to be content. The fact is contentment is a learnable skill. Paul said so:
“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11–13 NIV, emphasis added).
This was a method that David Ramsey has talked about on various occasions also. For me, I create a monthly spending plan and outline my spending and my earnings. Of course, I’m not always 100% accurate but I’m usually pretty close barring any types of emergencies.
Pg. 220, In that previous era, many diligent people on a budget employed an “envelope system” to help them manage their discretionary spending. The month’s budgeted allotment for certain categories of spending such as groceries, eating out, entertainment, and clothing was placed in its respective envelope. Money for each category was spent throughout the month, and when the allotment was gone, it was gone. It was a clear and powerful way to create spending discipline in areas that have the tendency to drift out of control as we lose track of them. That’s still a very sound approach if you want to utilize it.
The saying is often shared that money doesn’t change people it just magnifies who they already are. Would you agree? I would. I think about a good friend of mine who has always been very diligent with finances and just a year out of school had already repaid his parents for all the tuition support they provided. He goes on to receive a 35% pay raise and tells me that his next goal is… to max out his 401k and increase his emergency fund. Talk about a good steward.
Pg. 221, Increase will destroy bad stewards. But God can and will channel more resources into the hands of people who spend, save, and give in accordance with what He values.
Important example. Important application. We must remember that every decision should be honoring God and oftentimes going into debt for things is purely the opposite.
Pg. 229, We all occasionally owe other people, if only briefly. For example, if you sit down at a restaurant and order a meal, you owe the restaurant the total cost of your food up until the time you pay the bill… I know I’m splitting hairs here, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we all use debt on pretty much a daily basis. The only question is, Do we use it and manage it responsibly or irresponsibly?
100% agree. If you are going to use a credit card and gather interest on it (generally at a 20% APR or higher) that’s going to be a gargantuan waste of money. The S&P 500 is one of the best, most reliable investment vehicles in the past 100 years and has returned an average rate just over 7%. That means that you would have to TRIPLE the S&P 500 to break even on your money spent on that interest. And that’s before we consider inflation and opportunity cost. If you can’t pay for it twice — wait. That’s the baseline.
Pg. 231, I’ve already mentioned in a previous chapter that I carry a credit card or two and pay the balances off in full every month. This is the only prudent way I would ever recommend managing a credit card. Paying interest on unsecured debt is poor stewardship. You’re better off waiting and saving up.
The most important three parts of the book. Does this honor God? Does it make sense? Does this feel right? Simple checks, but often overlooked. Think about it and then be about it.
Pg. 235, Making wise financial decisions often boils down to getting answers to three basic questions. First and foremost, Would doing this violate any biblical principles? Second, Is this mathematically sound? In other words, Have I actually calculated the costs over time and compared the answer to other avenues? Finally, you must ask, Do I have peace in my spirit about this?
A powerful powerful story. When I first read the following I wrote down the word OBEDIENCE in all caps. That’s what hit me.
I challenge you to pray a quick prayer, ask God to clear your mind and speak to you. Then read and absorb. Think deeply about the following segment and strive to understand who you are. Learn who this gentleman was and then think and reflect on the idea of who you are. Why has God really blessed you with all that He has? What are you doing about it? What’s heavy on your heart?
Pg. 248 and Pg. 249, In the words of the old cliché, God will get it to you if He knows He can get it through you. When I think about this truth, I’m reminded of a wildly successful inventor friend of mine. Years ago, he was a churchgoing believer with a modest income living in a modest house in a modest neighborhood. At the time, his church was just launching a new building program and asking members to prayerfully make three-year giving commitments, over and above their regular giving, in support of the effort.
He stood there staring at the sky for a while, pondering what God had justasked him to do. My friend is a man of a faith and a man with a heart to obey God, so he said, sort of to himself, “Well God must be about to do something remarkable for us to be able to give that much. I guess the money is just going to sort of appear or something. It will be some sort of miracle if we’re going to look back three years from now and have given $50,000.”
About that time, while he was still looking at the sky, the voice of the Lord interrupted him and said, “Do you think I’m just going to drop that money out of the sky? What are you doing standing here looking up in the air? Go sit down at your computer and figure out how you’re going to adjust your budget.”
With his personal finance program open, he began looking at ways to cut and slash and enable them to start giving an additional $1,389 each month to the church. It literally seemed impossible at first. The money just wasn’t there. He vividly remembers at one point, he pointed to a group of line items in his budget that most people consider essentials, and said, “Father, the only way I can do what You’ve asked me to do is to take these things out of my budget.” He assumed at that point God would say something like, “Oh my, you’re right. I’ve made a math mistake. You can’t give that much!” But that’s not what he heard the Lord say in response.
The Lord said, “Okay!”
“Really, Lord? Is this really you?”
So he did it. He swallowed hard and made the cuts….
Pg. 250, “We’ll be sending you a check for $50,000,” the man told him.
After picking his jaw up off the floor, my friend walked back out into his backyard to talk to God and watch airplanes fly over. In that moment he heard God’s familiar voice once again.
“By the way, son, I can drop it out of the sky if I want to.”
It was after this that my friend received his first million-dollar idea. He believes with all his heart that God gave him that idea and those that followed because He’d learned He could trust him with money. He’d been faithful and obedient with little, so God entrusted him with much more. He was faithful with that increase. So, even more increase came his way. Of course, this man remains one of the most obedient and generous givers to people and to the gospel I know. If God tells him to do something, he does it.
Think about yourself in this area, how are you doing? Is there anywhere where you feel God giving you a nudge? Is He hitting you upside the head about any of the below? Is He patting you on the back for a job well done and blessing you more abundantly?
Pg. 251, Stewardship boiled down to its purest essence just means doing four life-giving things:
1. I put God first in everything because He loves me and redeemed me (tithe/firstfruits).
2. I gratefully receive everything God puts in my hand (be thankful).
3. I steward faithfully what He has entrusted to me (budget).
4. I hold His blessings with an open hand, prepared to give or distribute them as He directs, never forgetting that they are His, and that I am His (give).
This was one of the core books for me. Robert Morris is what I would consider to be an epitome of a generous person. When I think about Godly giving and I think about being generous with God’s resources, Robert is always one of the first people that comes to mind for me. Why did God really give you all He did? That’s what I often think about.
I keep most of my giving and most of my spending pretty private but in the short term future, I’m certainly looking at sharing some of that information publicly just to show people what is truly important to me. People see me traveling or enjoying nice cars sometimes, but those are not incredibly expensive things, no more than maybe 10% of earned income at the current level. In the future, they should make up even a smaller percentage as the income grows and expenses raise slightly but ultimately level off much below. Regardless of what I do, it’s always between you and God. What does God say? What is He putting on your heart?
The next time you receive money in your account, ask God why He put it there. I challenge you.