Management consultant and Christian life coach Jeff Spadafora provides a blueprint for building a life of greater joy and delivers a plan for frustrated believers to become joyful followers.
An increasing number of adult American Christians are frustrated. Even as they read their Bibles, listen to sermons, and hang out with other Christians, they become painfully aware that something is missing: joy. As a result, many have given up on their faith being a source of joy, and instead they seek meaning, purpose, and joy through their work, relationships, hobbies, possessions, or even more destructive and hollow substitutes.
In The Joy Model, Jeff Spadafora offers a better way, showing readers that joy comes from balancing the practical and spiritual sides of our lives—from the “Doing” and the “Being” of the Christian life. On the spiritual side, he reveals tried and true disciplines that move readers from knowing about God to actually experiencing him. On the practical side, he shows how to transform relationships, attitudes, finances, and work in ways that result in significant increases in joy. Weaving together his own spiritual journey, stories from his experience coaching others, and down-to-earth principles and practices, Spadafora helps readers find the joy in a life that is more vibrant and real than any they have experienced before.
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About the Author
Jeff Spadafora is Director of the Halftime Institute’s Global Coaching Services and Product Development (www.halftime.org), where he trains and manages the global Halftime Coaching staff. Earlier, Spadafora was a management consultant for twenty years with a focus on executive education and development for Fortune 500 companies. He lives with his family in Evergreen, Colorado.
Read an Excerpt
The Joy Model
A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance
By Jeff Spadafora
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Jeffrey Scott Spadafora
All rights reserved.
HOW DID I GET HERE?
Buzz. Buzz. Michelle's cell phone vibrated twice on her nightstand. It was a text coming in at 12:40 a.m. I was zonked out and the sound barely registered with me. "Jeff, Jeff, wake up. Look." It was a text from my seventeen-year-old son's ex-girlfriend: "Please check on Neal. He sent me this photo." It was a picture of the palm of a hand holding four pills.
I ran down the hall, flipped on the lights, and tried to shake Neal awake. I could barely rouse him. "Neal, did you take some pills?" No response. "Neal, did you take any pills?" I shouted. In a stupor he mumbled, "I don't ... I don't know." He was completely out of it.
Michelle came into the room, and I told her to call 911 as I tried to drag him out of bed to get him to the bathroom to force him to throw up. I had to go easy on him because he had just had major shoulder surgery a few weeks prior.
I couldn't believe this was happening. Four hours earlier we had been at the high school homecoming football game. Michelle and I were in the stands strategically positioned to have a line of sight on our two boys (Neal and his fifteen-year-old brother, Quinn) to get a feel for how they were settling into their new high school. Neal, always the life of the party, was making everyone within a three-bleacher radius laugh. "Some things never change," we chuckled.
Or do they? Now, as we waited for the ambulance to arrive, Neal was growing less coherent. Slipping away. And our whole world was turning upside down.
Before I knew it, the paramedics had Neal and Michelle in a speeding ambulance headed for the hospital and I was racing behind them in my truck.
It was a surreal drive. I was confused ... and mad at myself. How could I have missed the signs? His shoulder surgery was so serious he was going to miss both the golf and basketball seasons — two of his greatest loves. Prior to the surgery he had totaled his car in an accident. He was in a new and completely different school environment trying to make new friends. He and his girlfriend had just broken up.
The week before, he told us he thought he was addicted to the pain meds, and we had immediately flushed everything down the toilet. Now I racked my brain to think of what could possibly be in his system.
And yet, as I drove, underneath it all I had this odd — even inexplicable — sense that he was going to be okay. A week or two earlier a friend of mine had shared how the promise of Romans 8:28 got him through a terrible accident: "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (emphasis mine). In the car, I found myself actually believing this verse.
I parked outside the hospital and ran in. The docs had Neal in the emergency room. Soon they came out and told us he was going to be okay. He had ingested a non-life-threatening dosage of the Ambien that I kept in my home office and used when I was traveling internationally. But they categorized his behavior as a suicide attempt and wanted to keep him under surveillance and do some psychological assessments. We could go home for the night ... a night full of both worry and relief.
We headed back to the hospital early the next morning with lots of questions in our minds, but with huge gratitude in our hearts. Neal was alive. Michelle said something as we walked into the hospital that I'll never forget: "Two things you have to know. First, God has a plan for this. In some crazy way, this is no surprise to Him, and everything is going to be okay. Second, for what it's worth, I don't blame you for any of this." Is there anything else you'd rather hear from your spouse in a situation like this?
So here's the question: How in the world did we get to the point of trusting God so radically? Where did that sense of peace come from? If this had happened to us ten years earlier, we'd have been basket cases.
It might be a stretch to use the word joyful, but we were experiencing something in our hearts that was completely incongruent with the horrible circumstances. It was "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7 NKJV).
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. ... For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ" (2 Cor. 1:3–5). Over time, Michelle and I had come to see this truth as our reality and not some abstract theology.
Please don't think I have "arrived" or am some spiritual giant. I still have a long way to go. There are still times when I am frustrated with life. I worry. I lose my patience. I covet things. But underneath it all, I have this pleasant undercurrent of joy. I'd consider myself a 4 out of 5 on the joy scale. Okay, maybe a 3.5. This book is a humble attempt to explain how that happened. How the practical and spiritual parts of my life have unfolded and gotten me to a place of consistent joyful living that I never thought possible.
But this is more than just my story. As a Christian life coach, I'll draw upon the stories of the hundreds of men and women I have had the privilege of coaching over the last ten years. I've come to see clearly the thought patterns, habits, and disciplines that consistently lead to greater joy in a person's life, and I want to share those with you.
Let's start by differentiating joy from the term most often used interchangeably (and incorrectly) with joy: happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. When things are great at work, in our marriages, in our bank accounts, and with the kids, we are happy. Who wouldn't be?
But when our relationships get rocky, work becomes a drag, our investments tank, or the kids start misbehaving, happiness evaporates. Joy, on the other hand, continues despite the circumstances.
I believe this type of overarching, all-pervading joy is available to each of us, and I want to share the secrets of experiencing it.
At times throughout this book, I'll use peace, comfort, and fulfillment interchangeably with joy. There are certainly some nuances between each of those words and joy, but the common thread that I am drawing between all these words is a state of mind and heart that transcends our day-to-day situation. I'm talking about the psychological, emotional, and spiritual state of being that trumps the practical realities of our lives.
At the same time, there are some practical aspects of your life that will greatly impact your joy. Now, that might sound contradictory to what I said earlier — that circumstances and situations don't impact true joy. But here's the subtlety you must grasp, and that we'll explore deeply throughout this book: you can improve your circumstances and your levels of joy by taking action on things that are within your control (e.g., your health, relationships, finances, career) and getting them in alignment with God's ways, and subsequently you'll find both your circumstances and your joy will improve. It's about obedience, about applying God's principles to the parts of life you have control over.
As for circumstances that are out of our control (e.g., the death of a loved one, the collapse of a business due to the economy, a diagnosis of cancer ... ), we'll explore how joy can be real and lasting in those situations too.
I have been asked many times over the years if true joy is only available to Christians. I can't tell you how much I want to answer that question with a bold and definitive yes or no. The fact of the matter is that I can't. I have studied the world's major religions in detail, but at the end of the day all I have is my personal experience and the experience of other Christians whose lives I have been deeply involved in. All I can do is share the truth of their stories and the Truth that those stories are founded upon.
If you are open to the possibility that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit of the Christian tradition is a possible pathway for real and lasting joy, then read on.CHAPTER 2
Smoldering discontent. I can't think of a better phrase to describe my life from age twenty-five to forty. From the outside looking in, I should have been the happiest guy in the world. A beautiful wife, three healthy kids, a successful management consulting career, a dream home in Colorado, three horses to ride on our property and in the adjacent national forest, a ski house in Breckenridge, and a group of close friends. But something was still a little "off."
Your situation may be different from mine, but that gnawing feeling of discontent is probably familiar to you. Something in the back of your mind and deep in your heart that says things aren't quite right with your life. You do your best not to show it, but you know it is there, despite your practiced routines to hide it — or worse yet, to ignore it.
If I were to bump into you as you walked out of church and ask, "How's it going?" you'd probably say, "Great, how 'bout you?" I might say the same thing.
And we'd both be lying a little. Nothing sinister; not a blatant attempt to deceive each other. But a covering of sorts, which is another way of saying we are putting our best foot forward to try to convince each other — and especially ourselves — that all is well. We are both willing players in a game we have learned without anyone teaching us.
If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, we share a faith that we sincerely want to work; we sing the songs, soak up the sermons, and get emotional over the stories of injustice and abuse and desperation. But something fades when we reenter our work, our marriages, our families — what we sometimes think of as the "real world" as compared to our church world. The real stuff of life can suck the air from our souls or act as "shiny objects" that distract us from our faith and eventually leave us spiritually dry. Either way, we're puzzled about why our faith isn't delivering what it promises us: peace, joy, fulfillment. We wonder if there is some spiritual insight we're missing. Some knowledge, paradigm, or connection with the divine that eludes us and prevents us from experiencing the joy we desire. Or perhaps the problem is more practical: "Maybe I don't have peace and joy because I'm not applying biblical principles to the practical aspects of my life. It's why I have financial stress or anxiety about the path my kids are on or concern about the direction my marriage is heading in." Whatever the reasons, we know that if we don't figure it out soon, this puzzlement could turn into apathy about our faith — or worse yet, our faith will become utterly irrelevant.
Save for the details, our stories are probably similar. You may have been given the gift of faith by godly parents and grandparents — a nurturing environment of Sunday school, mission trips, Bible memorization, and regular opportunities to recommit your life to God. Or like me, you came upon this faith late in life, after discovering that all the worldly things that you pursued and attained did not in the long term deliver what you thought they would. So, like me, you turned to God.
Both of us recall the overwhelming relief that came when we committed to start living life God's way instead of our way. We repented from sin that had separated us from God. We acknowledged Christ's death as the forgiveness of our sins, and we were told His Spirit gave us the power to be free from sin. We were immediately reunited as imperfect people to a perfect God. And we know that the clock on this deal never runs out, even when our physical bodies stop ticking. For a moment, and more, all is right with the world.
Oftentimes, after an experience like this, something fairly typical starts to unfold: the ordinary creeps back in, slowly — almost imperceptibly — smothering our newfound joy with a new type of discontentedness. We soldier on, resigned that this is as good as the spiritual life gets. But, after tasting a bit of joy, we are even more frustrated because it somehow evaporated. Maybe, you think, maybe I just didn't work hard enough to keep it alive. Maybe I've let the cares and worries of this world slip in and move my attention away from God. Maybe the pounding messages of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street have their hooks deeper into me than I thought.
So we resolve to try harder.
EXHAUSTED FOR JESUS
You read somewhere in the Bible that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20 NKJV). Maybe that's the problem, you think. My joy is blocked because I'm not doing enough for God and others. So you went to your pastor and told him you wanted to get more active in the church. Serve God. Use your talents for the kingdom. He told you, "God's timing is perfect." The first-grade boys Sunday school teacher was moving and they needed a replacement. Would you do it? It wasn't what you had in mind, but how could you argue with God's timing? Within three weeks you realized you should have argued — vehemently. It had been nine years since you had a first grader, and even if you did amazing things with your own child, you'd lost your touch. Or kids had gotten crazier.
Serving God looked like this every Sunday morning: Five minutes into the Bible story, chaos reigned. Tommy and Derek started wrestling. Brian wandered over to the toy box and started emptying it. Eric had to go to the bathroom, which prompted two other boys to decide they had to go as well. Only the new kid, whose name you forgot, still sat nicely while you tried to teach him about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Maybe in your case it wasn't Sunday school. Maybe it was the elder board, the soup kitchen downtown, the mission trip to Haiti, being church treasurer, or mentoring a kid. All noble acts of "foot washing" service that are essential to developing a humble heart and boosting our gratitude. But long term, it's just volunteering — and tiring. It's certainly not your calling. There's a big difference.
The joy that you thought would come from doing things for God was replaced with exhaustion, boredom, and perhaps some resentment.
The lightbulb came on during a sermon one Sunday as you recovered from yet another bout of service to the adorable little first graders. The pastor said, "Christians need to go deeper with the Lord. Our faith is a mile wide and an inch deep. You will be continually frustrated with your spiritual journey until you have an abiding relationship with Christ."
How do you do that? He explained, "You need to really get into the Bible. Spend more time in prayer, which includes listening for God's voice, not just asking for things. Get involved in a small group. Fill your mind with the things of God by reading Christian books, listening to Christian music."
SPIRITUALITY ON STEROIDS
After obtaining release from your Sunday school teaching assignment, you got real spiritual. You shifted all your weight from "Doing Things for God" to "Being with God." You decided to buckle down and read the Bible every day for the next sixty days. Each morning you tried to find time to read the Bible for five to ten minutes, said a prayer or two, then dashed off to work. Of course, that commitment didn't hold, and you weren't really reading the Bible every day of the week. Guilt started to creep in. But it was offset by the fact that you were checking some things off your list of spiritual to-dos. As for your prayer life, it was spotty. You tried to do it more often, but you weren't really sure where to go with it or what you were getting out of it.
You heard that being in Christian community was good for your faith, so you joined a really neat group of guys who met for breakfast once a week before work. Wow! Real men, living in the real world. There was a lot of talk about the economy, politics, sports, business, and the sad state of our culture all wrapped in the appropriate Christian worldview. But the focus on the Bible — and the authenticity of the guys — was a little shallow. Not a big deal, though, because you were starting to grow a bit. Call it "winning ugly."
One day your pastor approached you with a new request that made you feel pretty good. He said he had noticed your growing spiritual maturity, adding, "You know, it was probably a mistake to saddle you with those first graders, but our Adult Ed program is growing so fast that we have more people than classes to serve them. Would you be interested in teaching a class of newer Christians?"
If it was hard to argue with God's timing, it was even harder to argue with your own ego.
"I guess I have grown a lot," you told yourself. "Maybe this is the sweet spot I've been looking for in my faith."
Excerpted from The Joy Model by Jeff Spadafora. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Scott Spadafora. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. HOW DID I GET HERE?, 1,
2. SMOLDERING DISCONTENT, 7,
3. FRUSTRATION REVEALED, 15,
4. WHAT'S WRONG?, 23,
5. MARGIN: MAKING ROOM FOR CHANGE, 42,
6. ABIDING: LIFE WITH THE SPIRIT, 61,
7. SELF-AWARENESS: WHO ARE YOU REALLY?, 90,
8. TREASURE: THE GREEN MONSTER, 115,
9. ENGAGEMENT: GET IN THE GAME!, 127,
10. RELATIONSHIPS: YOUR RICHEST GIFTS, 147,
11. DON'T TRY THIS ALONE, 160,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, 177,