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Monday, February 27, 2017

"The Joy Model" (Jeff Spadafora)

TITLE: The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance
AUTHOR: Jeff Spadafora
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2016, (190 pages).

Is the pursuit of happiness a futile one? Is it really possible to have joy in an imperfect world? What about having a model to inculcate more joy? Is it possible to manufacture joy? Sounds a little artificial at first, but the author affirms it. From 2001 to 2006, he wrestled with discontent about the status quo and the need for something beyond mere busyness and spiritual activities. He shares about his personal journey, a wake-up call, an inspiring quote, and the background behind the start of the joy model. This 2x2 matrix is essentially a model between 'being' and 'doing.' Who we are determines what we ought to be doing. The 'being' represents the identity while the 'doing' represents the activity.

  • A Frustrated Believer is one who is low on understanding his 'being' and low in knowing what to do.
  • A Weary Worker is one who is also low in knowing his 'being', but perennially busy doing stuff.
  • A Heartless Hypocrite knows a lot about God and claims to have experienced God powerfully, but has no external evidence through good works
  • A Joyful follower is one who not only knows himself and has experienced God, he is also putting into action his talents and gifts for good works.

He then describes his MASTER-plan as follows:

  1. Margin: Time to make room for change
  2. Abiding: Who is God? Take the Bible seriously
  3. Self-Awareness: Who am I?
  4. Treasure/Temple: Finances and your body
  5. Engagement: Talents in action
  6. Relationships: Tribe
Each of the six chapters describing the particular aspect of the MASTER-plan contains a purposeful format. There is an explanation about what it means. The author gives some reasons for the step and provides promises and potential pitfalls. He places the step into the JOY model to give us an idea of where we are heading. The illustrations and practical tips give readers meaningful ways to put the steps into practice. The chapter on Self-Awareness is filled with questions of self-examination, something that has a lot of value when it comes to confession and humility. 

Overall, this book is very readable and also appealing to people seeking to find more direction in their own lives. Indeed, just like the Henry David Thoreau's quote: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," Christians too are not immune from the frustrations of living a purposeless life. The author is able to effectively describe the discontent happening in most people. Using his own life as an illustration, he shows us that it is possible not to let mundane lives rule the day. We can change. We can recognize our strengths and weaknesses. We can be intentional about where we want to go.

Three Thoughts
At first, it looks like this is another self-help of self-coaching book. It can be used that way though the author reminds us that it needs another person to be involved for accountability reasons. That is very important. Without the accountability portion, we could begin strong but finish weak, assuming we finish it in the first place.  Sometimes, when something becomes too straightforward with step by step instructions, it gives us a false sense of assurance that we can do all things our own way in our own strength. Perhaps, the way forward is not about what we can do but humility. Be humble about our limitations and ask God for wisdom. Just because we want something does not mean it is God's will for us to have it. Probably, the ABIDING portion need not just be one part of the entire process but to be used throughout the process.

Second, I am not certain about the need to differentiate between happiness and joy. Both are legitimate human emotions. Even some Bible translations have translated the word 'blessed' as 'happy.'  There is no need to decrease the meaning of happy in order to elevate 'joy.' In some sense, I find the distinction rather meaningless. Some may say that the former depends on circumstances while 'joy' independent of it all, I believe both happiness and joy are possible without having to be linked to circumstances.

Finally, know that this book is about coaching. This book may be prescribing a lot of formulas and steps that could be taken, but ultimately, one would need to incorporate and contextualize the concepts personally. Rather than a wholesale transference of knowledge from the book into our heads, we would need to take time to answer the questions laid out in the book. Write out our responses and our feelings. Also take note that our answers may even differ over time. Like a journal, put down the time and our moods. Our prevalent state of mind affects the way we see ourselves.

Overall, this is a helpful book that would give the weary or the disillusioned another way back into a more purposeful life.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Thomas-Nelson and BookLook Bloggers Program without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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