The Joy Model, by Jeff Spadafora: A Book Review


In January, I wrote about a gift I received from my husband Scott, The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, by Jeff Spadafora. It was an early #joysighting!. I intended to review it sooner, but chose to savor its wisdom before bringing it to you here at 
 Joy Let Loose. Now that I have finished it, and have enjoyed looking around Jeff’s blog, and companion devotional journey, I can’t wait to tell you about it!

 

Book Review

The Joy Model

Jeff was successful in life in many of the ways our culture defines success. He had a beautiful family, vibrant career, and a lovely home. Jeff also had access to many life luxuries many of us only dream of. But he sensed something was missing. He defines the years of his life between ages 25-40 as years of “smoldering discontent”. Jeff describes a pendulum swing between “doing for God” and “being with God” that left him exhausted and frustrated. Although he was doing everything he thought he was supposed to be doing to grow as a Christian, somehow the joy promised in the Bible was elusive to him.

It’s almost as if this faith thing had ignited a thirst that could never be quenched. (13)

As he shares his story of discontentment and joylessness, Jeff challenges readers to examine their own lives and smoldering discontent.

Revelation

Have you ever had an idea elude you for a long season, even though you know something is there? Then all of a sudden, comprehension comes like a lightning bolt to clear the fog? That is what happened for Jeff after several months of trying to create a diagram that adequately described the concept of joy. In a moment, he had a profound, yet simple, grid. It revolutionized his teaching, and accurately portrayed his own journey from discontent to joyful living.

Not only does this joy model portray the concept, but it shows how to move from where people are now to greater joy. Jeff calls it the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan. He is careful to explain that seeking joy for joy’s sake is kind of like chasing a butterfly in its elusiveness. His plan coaches readers to seek God, promising that peace, joy and fulfillment are by-products of a focus on God.

M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan

I felt exposed by the first few chapters of this book. As an almost 20-year-old believer, I could hear my own discontent echo through their pages as I saw my pendulum swinging. So, I loved the helpful depth and clarity of chapters four through ten, as Jeff gently walked me through each element of the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan:

  • Margin
  • Abiding
  • Self-awareness
  • Treasure (and Temple)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
Thoughts

Margin is what actually makes room for change to happen. It is difficult to allow for in our busy cultures. But it is essential. We just returned from a two-week trip designed specifically for margin. Our family transition that has been unfolding over the last year has drained us physically and emotionally. We all needed to just breathe. Rest by the pool in the sunshine, on the sand by the ocean, and around the dinner table with family and friends was what my soul needed! 

Jeff’s coaching on margin, though, goes beyond the periodic vacation, and points to the need for space in everyday life. He gives permission to dream of the ideal life, and contrast it with reality. Margin is necessary to bridge the gap.

Inner Focus

Abiding echoes Jesus’ words in John 15:5. So many of us get caught up in all of the “doing” of Christianity that we do not truly abide in Christ. Jeff gives permission for readers to enjoy God in ways He has uniquely designed them. But he also challenges us to come close to God in ways we perhaps haven’t before. He outlines specific disciplines that can draw us closer to the Lord.

Jeff’s chapter about Self-Awareness reveals a revolutionary part of his own journey. It exposes what he calls the “False Self”, against which most of us war. It helps us see the destructiveness of self-deception, and the limits that our selfishness place on us. But it points us toward the “Real Self”, and movement on the joy model. He promises this discovery holds the life you have always wanted.

Real joy is being exactly who we are in service to others and for the glory of God. (114)

In his chapter about Treasure, Jeff introduces the “Green Monster”. He discovered that, far too often, finances degrade people’s joy. But he says that wealth and a life of joy are not mutually exclusive. His own discovery that he relied on wealth to form his identity set him on a trajectory to learn how His money could bless other people. This chapter is one of strategy to help readers take the same steps. 

Outward Focus

Engagement is about being enlisted in the work of the Holy Spirit on this earth. But it is impossible to enlist prior to the self-examination of the previous chapters, so don’t rush ahead! By now, our passions and paradigms have changed, and we are freed up to step in fully to God’s will for our lives. This is not about the obligation of what we ought  to do, but more about being brave to do what we were created to do.

We don’t lack clarity from God about what we should be doing. We lack he creativity and courage to go do it. (136)

Finally, in the section about Relationships,Jeff reminds us of the treasure we have in the people God has given to us. He challenges the superficial relationships we often keep, holding people at arm’s length. And Jeff encourages readers to examine their key relationships, resolve conflict more carefully, and develop intimacy.

Jeff encourages readers not to try this journey alone. He recommends mentoring, coaching, and accountability. His companion blog and devotional journey are helpful tools he provides to help. But he says most people will not be successful trying to go this road alone. 

The Joy Model Recommended!

The Joy Model

I am so glad I took my time working through The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance,  rather than simply consuming it in a day or two! I plan now to go back through it again, following Jeff’s recommendations and strategies. His joy model is clear and very helpful. If you are excited to start reading right away, I’d recommend you download the kindle version.  On this journey toward joy at  Joy Let Loose, I want my life to radiate the joy of the Lord. But I can still see my pendulum swinging sometimes, and my propensity to focus more on what I ought to do, rather than what I was created to do.

I am confident that Jeff Spadafora’s book will have a significant impact on my own joy-journey, and I want to recommend it to you in yours. If you have felt smoldering discontent, unsure why the joy of the Lord seems elusive to you, then please check out this book! 

Comments

I would love to hear about your experience with The Joy Model in the comments below! Where are you on the grid? How is God moving you from where you are to where you want to be? 

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

You Really Can Find Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Many of us struggle to believe that natural (supernatural) joy can be real in our everyday lives. Although we see it throughout scripture, our circumstances tend to obliterate it from our daily sight. And even though we sing about it on Sunday morning, our lives don’t echo it on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. So, is joy really natural?

I recently wrote the article, Why We Need to Know If We are Starving for Joy. Inside, there is a list of 7 things scripture shows us about joy, which will serve as foundational truths for this series of articles. Because many of us have forgotten what joy is like, or don’t even realize we’ve lost it. So what does scripture promise, and how are we going to realize its promises?

 Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Natural (Supernatural) Joy

Joy Is Natural

Joyfulness is a response. It is both something we are given, and something that is cultivated in us. Joy is what settles deep and spills out as we come face to face with the spiritual reality of our deliverance (1 Samuel 2:1), echoing the rejoicing expressed in heaven at the salvation of each believer (Luke 15:7).  

Numerous words in Scripture translate as “joy”, including:

  •  ἀγαλλίασις (agalliasis) – exultation, exuberant joy
  • χαρά (chara) – joy, delight, gladness
  • חֶדְוָה (chedvah) – joy, rejoicing
  • שָׂשׂוֹן (sason) – exultation, rejoicing
  • שִׂמְחָה (simchah) – joy, gladness, mirth

Joy is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Hebrew or Greek, each of these point to a variety of root words, and appear in different forms. But each one points to the responsive nature of joy. Among many other things, our joy may be in response to God’s presence (Psalm 16:11), strength (Psalm 21:1), salvation (Psalm 51:12, Isaiah 12:3), or favor (Psalm 30:5). It can be in response to his provision (Ecclesiastes 9:7, Luke 1:14), protection (Isaiah 35:10), family (Acts 2:46), Son (Hebrews 1:9), purification (Jude 1:24), or his Word (Isaiah 52:12).

The undergirding essence of all of these joyful reactions is exuberance. In each case, joy sort of explodes, unable to be contained. This is in stark contrast to the kind of anemic, sedate joy described by many Christians, which is often separated entirely from emotions. Our emotions absolutely are intertwined with natural, responsive joy. If we aren’t experiencing exuberant joy in response to all that God is, perhaps our joy is not yet natural.

Joy is a natural response to the undeserved & unexplainable activity of God in our lives. Click To Tweet
Joy is Supernatural

Joy is only natural to people whose nature is being transformed, because our actual nature is corrupted by sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 2:3). Without Christ, we are turned inward, blind to God, and unable to respond to Him. We cannot experience true joy. We need the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit to be truly joyful.

The one who has received God’s incredible gift of grace has come alive. Now, we are gardens to be cultivated by the indwelling Spirit of God. We are rich earth to be tilled, seeded, watered, and tended, ultimately on a trajectory towards Christlikeness.

Joy is second in the list of fruit named in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:22). He says joy is one of the things that grows naturally in the person who has nailed his or her fleshly desires to the cross of Christ. And the gentle cultivation of the Spirit towards the things of God and away from our former passions yields fruit that is alive and growing, colorful and healthy.

As we partner with the Garden-keeper, our joy becomes vibrant, noticeable, and unable to be contained! We can count on it to flourish when roots are dug deep in faith.

Assurance is the fruit that grows out of the root of faith. (Stephen Charnock)

Cultivating Natural (Supernatural) Joy

So what do we do if our joy has faded? Is there hope for the Jesus follower who just can’t seem to find joy in life anymore? I think there is! If  joy is a natural response to the undeserved and unexplainable activity of God in our lives, but we are struggling to feel it, perhaps we have lost sight of Him. Maybe in the hectic nature of our schedules, the kind of disappointments life seems to deliver, or the treacherous path of the unexpected, we have diverted our eyes. Perhaps former desires have crept back in and we have stopped co-operating with the Tender of our garden, so we are no longer flourishing and producing the fruit of joy. Allow the soil to be cultivated again.

1. Decide (choose)

After Jesus’ baptism and subsequent 40 days in the wilderness, he began his public ministry by opening the scroll and reading from Isaiah, the prophet. Isaiah’s prophecy, in full, had contained promises that Jesus would comfort those who grieve, replacing their sadness with the oil of joy and their despair with a garment of praise (Isaiah 61). Our first step in receiving the oil of joy where it has drained is in simply choosing to believe that Jesus has come to give it to us. We must decide to pursue it again. Jesus is the only one who can provide what we’ve lost. Do we really believe that? 

If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. (Billy Sunday)

Dear worn out, discouraged, joy-seeking reader, may today be the day you decide whether Jesus meant what he said. Don’t leak anymore! Cup your hands to receive his oil of joy.

2. Renew (fill)

In the article 6 Joy Scriptures to Memorize this Month, I wrote about Paul’s encouragement that we renew our minds in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2). He said it will help us not to conform to the {joyless} patterns of the world. We tend to see everything through the lens of whatever we think about most. So God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), and it is his Word that is true (Psalm 33:4). It is alive and active, and has the power to  expose our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12). 

Even today, you can make a plan to search his Word, to meditate on it, memorize it, and to allow it to begin to knit itself into the fabric of your being. As you do, your oneness with God will move you towards complete joy (1 John 1:4). Decide today to let God minister to your weary soul. Let it renew your mind and change your perspective. Fill up!

3. Praise (pour)

Filling up necessitates pouring out; jars that are full can’t help but spill over. Exuberance characterizes authentic joy, so make the choice today to start letting it out. Actively put on the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness. Thank God, speak of him, sing of him, share his goodness with others. Look for #joysightings around you, and document them in photos, journals, and conversations. I guarantee that sharing out loud with God and with others about your gratitude for his goodness and grace will simultaneously fill you with even more joy, because gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. This is a waterfall that replenishes itself as it pours! 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie)

 

Decide, Renew, and Praise

These three things will help the tired traveller begin to re-discover natural (supernatural) joy in his or her everyday life. Here is a free printable to help you start this journey of rediscovery. Jesus promises us natural (supernatural) joy. We can live it out loud! Will you join me?

Natural (Supernatural) Joy Printable

In the comments below, let us know how you are rediscovering natural (supernatural) joy!

Elizabeth Joy

Unexpected Joy: Thoughtful Surprises That Bring Joy

Sometimes joy is unexpected. I don’t know about your doorstep, but ours was host to a frenzy of brown packages throughout the month of December. Gifts came to us by way of the nice delivery man, always punctual, though laden with Christmas surprises, as we ordered things online and family sent goodies our way. Packages are exciting to me: I love to give and, if I’m honest, I love to receive them too. Gifts are especially meaningful when it is apparent the giver has spent time considering exactly who the recipient is; what they love, what brings them enjoyment, what makes them tick. Christmas morning is just so much fun!

Unexpected Joy


By January, the doorstep and mailbox had become understandably quiet – the massive gift giving season had ended. It was time to enjoy all that we had given and received. But lo and behold, last week two surprise packages arrived. Both were gifts for me. And both were from my awesome husband.  Continue reading “Unexpected Joy: Thoughtful Surprises That Bring Joy”

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Fighting For: Will You?

A New Year’s Resolution
Worth Fighting For 

New Year's Resolution

“Auld Lang Syne” and midnight kisses echo in the air long after the streamers and the confetti decorate the floor. Cheeks still hurt from laughter and celebration memories dance loudly in our heads as the page turns decisively into the New Year.  It is New Year’s Resolution time. This year is going to be the best yet. 2017 is going to be the year that everything falls into place, that we make the strides forward that we need to make, and that we finally land on the New Year’s resolution that we don’t fail to keep.

How many other years have begun this exact same way?

And yet gym memberships have been forgotten, pounds didn’t melt, and credit card debt still continued to mount. Is it possible for us to enter even the latter weeks of January without feelings of regret about already-broken resolutions and dashed hopes? I believe there is. And it may be that much of it has to do with leaning into the grace and strength of God to pursue resolutions that match His heart for us. Many of the things we resolve to do–and then don’t do–are things that may actually fall into place for us as we (instead) resolve to discover more of Him. Continue reading “A New Year’s Resolution Worth Fighting For: Will You?”