The Tabletop Test

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I was a student in college when affordable handheld calculators first hit the market. 

A manufacturer’s rep came to one of our classrooms and demonstrated his product’s dazzling array of bells and whistles.  Were there any questions? 

A student asked why he should buy this brand of calculator over one that was priced a few dollars less.  Without saying a word the salesman took his calculator and skipped it off the floor so it crashed hard into the wall.  Then he walked over and hit the power button.  Immediately it came to life.  The class went wild.

It’s called the tabletop test.  Something may look and sound beautiful.  But will it still work when it falls to the floor or hits the wall? 

A calculator is one thing.  A human heart is something else altogether.  Would your relationship with God pass the tabletop test – if, for example, a malignancy or bankruptcy or betrayal or the death of a special person suddenly imploded your life?  Are you connected to Christ in such a way that you have unshakeable confidence that his grace and power would see you through?

That’s a description of spiritual resiliency.  And it’s not easy to assess.

Traditionally, followers of Jesus have spotlighted certain behaviors as barometers of spiritual health:  worship attendance, Bible reading, prayer, volunteer service, and such.  If I sustain these activities, I’m doing pretty well. 


Dallas Willard had his doubts.  The Christian philosopher and ethicist observed that it’s all too easy to pursue “religious busyness” on the outside even while holding on to anger, worry, and cynicism on the inside.  He suggested a pair of self-diagnostic questions instead:

Am I growing more easily discouraged these days?  Am I becoming more easily irritated? 

Those are the ways to assess whether our connection to God is alive and well and able to survive the tabletop test.  Those are the benchmarks of authentic spiritual growth. 

A few years ago, author and pastor Mark Labberton was trying to finish up a book about Christ’s call to discipleship.  He was frustrated because he didn’t know quite how to end it. 

Mark hopped onto a plane, lost in thought, hoping against hope that he didn’t end up with a talkative seatmate.  He even angled his body away from the 80-something woman who ended up sitting beside him.

She was curious, however, about the thick manuscript that he kept staring at – the one with his name on it.  “Is that your book?” she asked.  “Yes.”  “What’s it about?”  Labberton responded with a few comments about Jesus’ call to follow him, no matter what life might throw at us. 

There was a long pause.  Then the woman asked, “Is this a work of fiction?” 

That’s the big question, isn’t it?  Is all this Jesus stuff mere fiction?

It’s high time to find out.

The next time you hit the floor or hit the wall, may you have the experience of discovering that Jesus is all you need.