Foreword by Dave Ramsey
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Who doesn’t want to eliminate financial stress? Who doesn’t want to get out of debt, reach their financial goals, experience the joy that God intends for us, and be free to bless others with their resources?
In The Blessed Life, Pastor Robert Morris teaches that generosity is a key component to being in God’s favor. Now, in Beyond Blessed, he shares the importance of being a good steward, not only with your finances, but with every part of your life. Pastor Morris will motivate you to become a better manager of your money, and provide practical lessons on taking your finances to the next level. Through Biblical principles, personal stories, and incredible testimonies, you will learn how to be a good steward, and that when you properly manage your finances, blessings will pour into all areas of your life. Here is a guide to increasing and going further with what God has given you, and living beyond blessed.
I didn’t see it coming. How could I? All these years later it still stuns and humbles me as I look at what God did, and continues to do, with that humble little effort.
Way back in 2001, it never occurred to me that a simple response to a request from a dear friend and mentor would set in motion a publishing phenomenon that here, all these years later, would still be spreading around the world touching hearts and impacting lives. In other words, no one is more surprised than I that my first-ever book, a little collection of things God had taught me about generosity, is a perennial best seller among Christian books.
As I write these words, The Blessed Life has been reprinted dozens of times in dozens of languages. Millions of tattered, dog-eared copies circulate hand to hand around the world. I’m told that a not-insignificant portion of the book’s robust annual sales now comes in the form of bulk orders, as pastors of churches large and small buy one copy for every household in their congregations. Among these pastors are men like Craig Groeschel, pastor of one of America’s largest church networks, Life.Church; Max Lucado; Rick Warren; Chris Hodges; Joel Osteen; and Brian Houston.
Please understand I’m not sharing this because I want you to be impressed. On the contrary, as I said at the outset, no one is more startled by that book’s success than I am. No, I tell you this for a simple reason. To understand the power, purpose, and potential of the book you currently hold in your hands, you must understand what I intended The Blessed Life to impart and, just as importantly, what it was not created to teach. Here on the opening pages of this book, it is vital that you understand the remarkable origin story of this book’s eldest brother. My firstborn, if you will. Only then will you be able to fully benefit from what is to follow.
Back in 2001 I was a young… okay, youngish… okay, a forty-year-old pastor of a fledgling church startup. We had launched Gateway Church with a few dozen people in a living room about a year and a half earlier, but it had grown rapidly. In fact, we had just moved into a rented facility—a former church now operating as a day-care center. As a result, we were enjoying the wildly extravagant luxury of not having to set up and tear down our sound system and projector every Saturday night. We could just set everything up and leave it! This also enabled us to add Sunday-morning services, whereas we had been limited to one Saturday-night service only in our previous spot.
The move accelerated our growth to the point that we quickly found ourselves ministering to more than five hundred people or more on a weekend. While this seemed like a vast multitude to us at the time, the reality was that Gateway wasn’t even one of the largest churches on our street, much less one of the largest in North America. It was in this season that a friend approached me with a surprising request on behalf of James Robison.
In the unlikely event that you’re not familiar with James, you need to know he is a truly wonderful man of God who has been used mightily by the Lord over the last five decades to positively impact the lives of people around the world and advance the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Like me, he began his ministry as an itinerating Baptist evangelist and was used to introduce hundreds of thousands to new life in Jesus Christ.
At the peak of his influence and notoriety in that denominational stream, James had a transformative encounter with the Holy Spirit that set him and his ministry on a new trajectory. For the last twenty-five years, James has ministered to millions via his daily Life Today television broadcast, using it to fund humanitarian efforts that have saved and improved countless lives all over the world.
Not long after I surrendered my life to Christ as a nineteen-year-old and sensed a call to full-time ministry, I went to work in the mail room and telephone prayer center of James’ ministry, Life Outreach International. Needless to say, he has been a great role model, mentor, and friend to me through the years.
Two decades later, I found myself the pastor of a young, expanding church with James Robison as a member of my congregation. (If you don’t think this was a little intimidating, you should try it!) That’s when he sent the request that set all this in motion.
James had heard me speak about how to cultivate a heart and lifestyle of generosity—toward God and others. This resonated with him powerfully because he had grown concerned about the prevalence of a “give to get” message being proclaimed from many pulpits and media ministries. That message seemed to suggest that the primary motivation for believers to be generous is the expectation of receiving even more back in return. In contrast, I advocated a “give to live” and “give to love” heart motivation for God’s people. In other words, I was teaching our congregation that believers should be the most generous people on earth simply because our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to God for His extravagant, gracious gifts of salvation and eternal life. I taught that we give to God and others for the sheer joy of giving and because God is a giver—therefore, as His children, we should naturally take after our Father. Instead of a “give to get” message, I preach a “get to give” message.
James believed this kind of teaching needed to be exposed to a wider audience, so he presented me with a challenge coupled with an opportunity. If I would expand on these messages in book form, he would offer the book on his television program and have me on to talk about it.
It represented an intriguing challenge. On one hand, I was a more-than-busy pastor of a church virtually exploding with growth. I found myself coming and going several times in a typical week. The thought of finding time to write a whole book—something I’d never done before—seemed impossible. On the other hand, I agreed wholeheartedly with James that the body of Christ needed to get this revelation of generous giving from a higher motivation. More importantly, I sensed that this invitation wasn’t ultimately from James Robison. It was God who was opening this door because He wants all of His people to experience the joy that results from being a cheerful, extravagant giver. I felt the Spirit of God prompting me to say yes to this invitation, and to trust Him with the task of actually getting the book written. So I did.
Ultimately, the writing of The Blessed Life proved far less painful than I imagined it would be. I’ve learned through years of walking with God that He always supernaturally empowers us to do what He asks of us, if only we’ll step out in faith and trust. I began by slipping away for a long weekend retreat with a pile of scribbled notes and a voice recorder. After some time of prayer and fellowship with God, I organized my notes, turned that recorder on, and began pouring out my heart and thoughts about living a lifestyle of generosity.
The words flowed far more freely than I’d thought possible. Long-forgotten stories and incidents rose up in my memory. I said things I didn’t even know I knew! By the time my getaway was over I had hours and hours of teaching on tape. My next step was to have these recordings transcribed. I spent some time refining them, then turned them over to a gifted editor who happened to be a member of Gateway Church and understood at a deep level the truths and principles I wanted to convey. He cleaned up and polished the emerging work further and soon we had a bona fide book manuscript ready for printing. The rest, as they say, is history.
The initial print run of thirty thousand copies was quickly exhausted, so additional printings followed. Soon, major publishing houses started expressing interest in taking The Blessed Life on as a published title. I said yes to one of them and soon the book was being sold everywhere!
Now, I was a publishing novice back then. I didn’t know enough about it to know what was normal in the Christian book industry. Since then I’ve learned that most books, if they’re successful, experience an initial surge of sales that trails off fairly quickly. But that didn’t happen with The Blessed Life. It seemed to just keep growing with each passing year—fueled by the word of mouth of those who had been touched and helped by it. In fact, it’s still going strong today.
So why a “sequel” all these years later? Well, actually it’s really more of a prequel, and you’ll understand why in a moment.
Two Legs Required
I have a vague childhood memory of seeing a cartoon episode in which a character has one shoe nailed to the floor. He runs as hard as he can but can only spin in circles. It’s comical to see a cartoon character in that plight. But there is nothing funny at all about seeing my fellow Christians live that way. Allow me to explain.
Since writing The Blessed Life, I’ve heard countless testimonies from individuals, couples, and families who read it, embraced its message, and experienced wonderful, life-transforming results. They responded to its challenge to cultivate a lifestyle of generosity and started giving joyfully and liberally. Even extravagantly. In doing so they discovered what my wife, Debbie, and I did long ago—namely, that you can’t outgive God, and that blessing others as the Holy Spirit prompts you is just about the most fun any human being can have. They learned that putting God first in their finances and recognizing that it all belongs to Him anyway results in freedom, peace, and joy in every area of their lives. This indeed is the blessed life.
But that’s not the only kind of testimony I’ve heard over the years. Another, less encouraging theme emerged from some who read and tried to follow the book’s core message about giving. From time to time I’ve had someone come up to me on the street or at a conference and say something along the lines of, “I tried it, but it didn’t work.”
Of course, my usual response was, “Tried what?”
“Giving. My spouse and I started giving as you suggested in your book, but we’re still buried in credit card debt.”
Initially I was puzzled by these kinds of comments. I wasn’t connecting the dots because, in my mind, they were unrelated to what the book was actually about. After all, I didn’t write a book called The Blessed Pocketbook or The Blessed Balance Sheet. I shared spiritual truths and insights for experiencing God’s blessing upon your entire existence—which encompasses your health, emotions, relationships, and, yes, your finances.
Gradually I began to understand that I had built the message of The Blessed Life on an assumption. If you think of that book’s message as a house, then there is an underlying assumption serving as the house’s foundation. That foundational assumption is this:
We have to live within our means.
Put another way, you can’t spend (or give) more than you have. Now, I know there’s nothing particularly deep or profound about that statement. It is a concept so simple a child can grasp it. Indeed, I learned this principle from my wise and frugal parents early on in life.
My father was and is one of the most generous men I’ve ever known. Over the years, I’ve watched him give thousands of dollars to the kingdom and bless struggling people with cars and even houses! He’s made personal loans to young couples for down payments on their first house, to families who were rebounding from financial disasters, to people who had lost their jobs, and to widows who needed reliable transportation. And he still does.
He doesn’t make a big deal out of his one-man benevolence banking operation he’s been running for decades. On the contrary, his generosity flies under the radar of most of the people who know him. But he did once show me the little black ledger book that contained all of the personal loans that were still outstanding. Quickly totaling them in my head brought me to more than $350,000! One of these was a loan of $20,000 to an older widow who needed a car. My dad had told her to pay whatever she could. She was faithfully repaying him at a rate of $20 per month. My mathematical mind quickly realized the loan would never recover even a fraction of that money. Of course, he wasn’t bothered by that. As I flipped through the pages, I realized that most of the loans were like that. I asked my father, “Do you have any collateral for these loans?” He said, “No, just their word.” I said, “Well, what if they don’t pay you back?” His eyes welled up with tears as he choked the words out: “Well, then… I got to bless them!”
My father is definitely one of the greatest givers I’ve ever known! Not coincidentally, he is also one of the greatest stewards I’ve ever known, and those two realities are related. Just think about it: How can you generously give to others if you have nothing to give?
Dad is a civil engineer by trade and even owned his own company for many years. I’ve been told more than once that he is a mathematical genius. Numbers add up in his mind effortlessly. So, if he’s going to help someone with a $5,000 loan, and he has payroll and monthly expenses to meet, he has to be able to live on a budget that allows him to meet all of his obligations and be extremely generous! My dad certainly modeled wise, frugal, prudent stewardship.
I carried this ethic into my marriage. Debbie and I married young, and I was clueless and foolish about many things at that point in my life. But understanding the basic, unforgiving math of income versus outgo wasn’t one of them. I knew you can’t spend more than you make. I wasn’t earning much money in those days. I suspect that by the government’s official definition, we were literally poor. Yet we did whatever was necessary to live on less than what I made. And once I fully surrendered my life to Jesus and experienced God’s extravagant gift of forgiveness and wholeness, doing so included managing our finances in such a way that we could tithe faithfully and give generously whenever the Spirit nudged us.
I honestly assumed most, if not all, believers understood this. So, I didn’t address it in The Blessed Life. It seemed obvious to me that being a generous person involved redirecting your discretionary spending money, which in turn required… you know… actually having discretionary spending money. Furthermore, wise money management—as important as that topic is—simply wasn’t what James Robison asked me to write about. He asked me to explain my biblical approach to giving, one that was and is a sharp contrast to the prevalent “give to get” philosophy.
The fact is, a life of true blessing walks on two legs. One of these legs—the focus of my first book—is generosity. It is absolutely necessary to be generous to experience the full measure of God’s blessing. However, the vital first leg is managing your financial resources wisely and prudently so you’ll actually be able to be generous. That is the focus of the book you now hold in your hands. This is why I said that, in a sense, it is as much a prequel as a sequel to The Blessed Life. It is also why I was put in remembrance of that cartoon character with one foot nailed to the floor. Trying to be more generous without also becoming a prudent manager of resources (especially money) is like trying to run with one foot nailed to the floor. It will be exhausting, frustrating, and fruitless. This is precisely what I saw in the faces of those people who came up to me saying things like, “Pastor Robert, I’ve started giving but I’m still trapped in credit card debt.”
Here’s wonderful news. The ability to wisely manage wealth and material possessions is not a talent with which you’re gifted at birth. It’s a skill. This means it can be taught and learned. It is a form of wisdom, and the book of Proverbs wouldn’t encourage us to “get wisdom” (4:7) if it weren’t available to everyone with enough humility to receive it.
There is a biblical word for this skill, but I’m almost reluctant to use it here because it’s gotten a bad reputation through misuse and abuse. Too many Christians have a wrong concept of what this word denotes. Here goes, anyway. I’m talking about… stewardship!
Many people who have been in church most of their lives have come to associate the word stewardship solely with giving to the church. They have been conditioned to view stewardship as just a code word for giving offerings or tithing. This is understandable because this is precisely the context in which it’s so often used. If a church has a “stewardship emphasis week,” it invariably means a week in which everyone is exhorted to give more generously. A “stewardship campaign” is often the label applied to an initiative to raise funds for a new building. Over time, we’ve been trained to hear the word stewardship and think “giving more.” But that’s not what I mean when I use that term at Gateway Church—because that’s not the way it is used in the Bible.
The fact is that stewardship is simply about being a wise, prudent, and skillful steward of all the resources God has placed in your hands. So, what is a steward? We’ll explore this question in greater depth in the chapters that follow, but for now let me give you a quick working definition. One of the main definitions for steward in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a person employed to manage another’s property, especially a large house or estate.” As used in the Bible, it refers to a person who is left in charge of another person’s assets. A steward is entrusted with protecting, maintaining, nurturing, and/or growing things—a business, a farm, a household, or some funds—that belong to someone else.
God made Adam and Eve (and by extension their descendants) stewards of the entire earth. He left it in their care to “tend and keep” (Gen. 2:15) and gave them instructions to maximize its potential, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion…” (Gen. 1:28). In a similar way, God entrusts many things to each of us. As the Creator of everything, including us, it all belongs to Him. Yet He leaves in our care assets such as time, talents, relationships, and yes, wealth. Handling these precious assets prudently qualifies us for blessing. And for the privilege of being entrusted with more.
Numerous parables of Jesus feature stewards—both good and bad. In the coming chapters, we’ll explore these parables and mine them for divine wisdom and insight. For now, just know that on the pages that follow, I will lay out the principles, precepts, and patterns that make you a sound, skillful handler of all God has entrusted to you. We’ll focus on wealth, but the principles translate to every resource and asset category.
This will include practical skills such as budgeting, handling debt, and financial planning. In fact, these skills are so vital that our church established an entire ministry we call Gateway Stewardship in order to help our members learn them. As I said, the reality that any believer can learn the practical keys to becoming a wise steward is wonderful news and should give you hope as you begin this journey.
Here is even better news. As with everything else in the Christian life, as you step out in faith and obedience to become a more biblical steward of what God has entrusted to you, He will run to meet you and help you! Supernatural power from heaven is ready and waiting to provide miraculous help to you as you set out to become a wise steward. I know this to be true because Debbie and I have experienced it time and again. But we’re not special or unusual. On the pages that follow, you will encounter dozens of real-life testimonies of regular believers just like you who desired to align their financial lives with the Bible’s wisdom. (I’ve changed or omitted their names to protect their privacy, but their stories are very real.) Unfailingly, they found they weren’t alone in their quest to become better stewards. As they stepped out, they discovered a mighty heavenly wind at their backs, accelerating their progress as God honored their decision to do things His way.
Please get this: God blesses, helps, and rewards your heartfelt efforts to be a better steward.
I wrote this book as a companion to The Blessed Life because God wants to bless you. It’s His nature and desire to do so. But it’s hard for Him if you’re not both a wise steward and a generous giver. Indeed, the first enables the second. Generosity is the goal. Wise stewardship is the vital means to achieving that goal.
Yes, the blessed life travels on two legs. I’m here now to help you get that first, vital leg in place and working strong. Then and only then will you be free to be a generous, joyous giver. And with those two legs in place in your life, they’ll take you to a place “beyond blessed.”
MAXIMUM IMPACT, MINIMUM STRESS
I want to invite you to daydream a bit. No, I’m not suggesting that you mentally check out and head to the golf course or the beach in your imagination. I’m asking you to pause a moment and picture, as vividly and with as much detail as you can, how it would feel to live without financial pressure.
Imagine that you always have money left at the end of the month, rather than too much month left at the end of your money. I’m talking about a life in which you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have worry or stress about your finances. When confronted with a purchasing decision, your first thought is, “Lord, should I buy this?” rather than, “How can I afford this?” Imagine a life of daily peace, laying your head on your pillow at night with a satisfied soul, and sleeping like a baby. If you’re married, you and your spouse routinely pray about spending priorities but never fight about money.
Picture a life in which you get to bless others whenever and wherever the Spirit moves you. This is a life turbocharged with energy, purpose, and fulfillment because you get to consistently invest in the people and causes that mean the most to you. In this imagined existence, you live with the assurance that you are, in the words of Jesus, laying up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21). But in the meantime, you’re having a ball here on earth. How fun this life is!
The highlight of a typical day might be noticing the frazzled-looking young mother in the grocery store aisle comparing prices on the cheapest brands of peanut butter while using her phone as a calculator and fighting back tears. You approach her, hand her a fifty-dollar bill, quietly say that God wants her to know that He sees her and cares about her, and simply walk away. Indeed, you spend your days looking for opportunities to be an answer to some desperate person’s whispered prayer—routinely having the privilege of serving as a living, breathing, tangible manifestation of God’s love for them.
Imagine not getting a sudden pit in your stomach when you think about your retirement years or old age. Like the wise, prudent woman of Proverbs 31, you smile at the future (v. 25).
Go ahead and imagine all of this, and any other aspects that come to mind of a life free from money pressure. As sharply and vividly as you can, picture yourself, your family, your home, your career in snapshots and video images of how it could be. Picture being free to follow to the fullest the adventure God wants to live alongside you.
See yourself experiencing a life of maximum impact and minimum financial stress.
Well, what do you think? Does that kind of life seem appealing? Gratifying? Peaceful? Of course it does. However, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. What you just envisioned was not necessarily the life of a wealthy person. In fact, many extremely wealthy people spend as much or more time worrying, fighting, obsessing, and stressing about money as anyone. The rich are more likely to be on antidepressants or antianxiety medications than average working-class folks. Millionaires and billionaires commit suicide with shocking regularity.
Nor did I just encourage you to fantasize about winning the lottery. A 2016 article in Time magazine pointed out that many people who win giant jackpots “wind up unhappy or wind up broke.”1 As an expert cited in that article pointed out, “About 70 percent of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years.”2 A 2013 article in Forbes titled “Why Lottery Winners Crash After a Big Win”3 cited a study of Florida lottery winners that found that more than 5 percent of them were in bankruptcy only five years out from their big “win.” The author interviewed numerous jackpot winners and found a startling number of them miserable and alienated from everyone they cared about. One woman referred to the money she and her husband had won as “a curse.”4 Another study revealed that “sudden wealth” didn’t take pressure off marriages, either. In fact, it actually increased the likelihood of divorce for married couples.5
The wonderful fact is that the truly “blessed life” you just envisioned is available to everyone, regardless of income bracket or social status. You can have that life. Anyone can. It requires only one thing: consistently living within your means. That’s the truth. Of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy or comes naturally. If living within your means were easy, it wouldn’t be such a rare thing in our culture. (By the way, it wasn’t rare a few generations ago. In fact, it was the norm. We’ve lost a vital virtue somewhere along the way.)
Wherever you stand right now, however ill equipped you may feel, however overwhelming your challenges may seem, you can take the first crucial steps today—then follow through all the way to a life “beyond blessed.”
It’s not too late. You haven’t gone too far to course correct. You are not disqualified in any way because of anything you’ve done, haven’t done, or suffered. You don’t need to have any specific talent or aptitude. You don’t have to come with anything more than a surrendered, humble heart and a willingness to embrace biblical wisdom. And you can start right now. (In fact, by picking up this book, you’ve already started!)
I know this, not because I know you, but because I’ve seen the precepts and practices I’m about to present to you work for an astonishing variety of people from every imaginable starting point. I’ve received thousands of letters from readers whose lives were changed by The Blessed Life, but one special letter touched me in a particularly meaningful way.
It came from a lady who received the book when she was a nonbeliever in the midst of a divorce. She read it and God used it to transform her life on multiple levels. She got a glimpse of the reality that God is good and that He loves her, so she gave her life to Christ. She promptly asked her soon-to-be ex-husband to read it, too. He did so, and although it was never envisioned to be an evangelistic book, he got saved as well. As a result, their marriage was saved. And their lives radically changed as they started putting God first in their lives.
Robert Morris has helped countless people-myself included-come to a better awareness of God's principles of generosity. His new book continues the teaching. What a welcome work!
—Max Lucado, pastor and author
- Beyond Blessed is an invitation to wild financial freedom. Pastor Robert shares the power of wise, prudent, and skillful stewardship of resources and imparts the tools you need to free yourself from the oppressive pressure of poor financial management while managing what has been entrusted to your care.—Lisa Bevere, New York Times bestselling author
- Pastor Robert knows the goodness of God firsthand, and he gently guides the reader through a practical yet deeply spiritual journey toward a life beyond the financial stress that many people know too well. Pick up this book and prepare to be beyond blessed.—Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life.Church and New York Times bestselling author
- Beyond Blessed is a very informative read that goes beyond our being generous. It teaches us in very practical ways how to steward what God has entrusted to us, and how it will lead to a life beyond blessed.—David Green, founder and CEO, Hobby Lobby
- Robert Morris is one of the best communicators of the Word of God in the Church today. His new book will bless you.—Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
- On Sale
- Jan 8, 2019
- Hachette Audio