An Exhortation About Nothing

An Exhortation About Nothing

Sometimes when you have to do an exhortation, it is difficult to pick a subject.  It has to be meaningful, interesting and something that affects you.  That is not always easy.  Many times a spark of an idea will come at the most menial of daily tasks and other times it will flow from large world events.  Often, something will catch hold just by reading and reading.  For this exhortation, “nothing” came to me.  I have “nothing” to offer you in words of exhortation this morning.

Let me explain.  The subject of “nothingness” in Scripture is quite “something”.  Now some people think of nothing all day and it gets them nowhere.  What we want to consider is how our contemplation of nothing leads us to a proper attitudes of contentment and humility.  Contentment comes from the full realization that we really brought nothing into this world, nothing is ours and we are taking nothing with us.  Humility springs from the acceptance that we are nothing.  Lowliness of mind comes from an engrained feeling that we truly are not that special.  Hopefully that makes sense now, so that when you are asked later what was the exhortation was on you can honestly say, “It was nothing.”

I found it funny that man, from a purely mathematical standpoint, struggled with the important concept of nothing, zero, zilch, nada, naught, nil for many years.  While the Babylonians had a punctuation mark for emptiness, it wasn’t until 500 AD that a certain Indian mathematician truly assigned a numerical value to zero.  Certainly, there had been math before that but nobody saw a need to use a zero.  The Greeks even philosophized whether there could be anything like nothing.  It seems like an appropriate analogy for man because we all struggle with seeing our lives as nothing but what a necessary thing it is to consider when we look at our lives in Christ.


First, let us consider “nothing” this morning in terms of contentment.  We cannot escape the fleshly inclination to think that if we accumulate things we will be happier.  It’s a trap to think that life is dull and boring and it’s not worth living without something new and exciting.  I know I struggle with this every day and I have to remind myself of the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-8,

“…godliness with contentment is great gain.  (7)  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  (8)  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

How often do you think about your own birth, coming into the world naked and helpless?  How often do our thoughts go to that trajectory of life, where we end up in the same place, naked and helpless?  At one point in my life, I could fit everything I owned into the backseat of my car.  Those days are long gone but it does not matter because in fact I really couldn’t take it with me anyway.

Paul’s words to Timothy are taken from Ecclesiastes 5:13-16 even though they also remind us of Job and how quickly the Lord gives and takes away. 

“There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.  (14)  But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.  (15)  As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.  (16)  And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?”

Sometimes it is hard to accept that all things are temporary when we spend each day striving after the wind.  The day-to-day things of food and clothing are needed but we have to put into perspective that they are supplied of God.  All things are his and we are simply stewards of what he has given unto us.  Hopefully, we are good stewards.  Nothing is ours really.

What really make us rich?  Turn with me and ponder this verse in Proverbs 13:7,

“There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.”

It’s not the things that are seen but the things that are unseen which are eternal.  The unseen things are the untold treasures of love, a meek and quiet spirit, mercy, judgment and justice.  These are the true riches of God.


Our ability then to be content is based on seeing the material things of this life as nothing.  There is another aspect to this though that is inward rather than outward, and that is humility.  While we may be content, we also have to be able to see “nothing” within ourselves when it comes to the eternal things of God.  That is without the grace of God and his love in sending his Son we would be nothing. 

Starting at Romans 3:10 Paul quotes verse after verse to prove the point,

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:  (11)  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  (12)  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Paul also says in Romans 7:18, “I know that in me dwelleth no good thing.”  There is “nothing” inside of us that can make us into “something” good.  The fact that God can take us and create in us into a new man is truly a miracle of the greatest proportions.

Bear with me a moment as we consider another parable of man.  Similar to how mathematicians and philosophers have struggled with the concept nothingness, so have physicists.  During the early part of the nineteenth century most physicists believed the universe was static, that it had always existed, and like a circle there was no beginning.  Einstein was one of them.  There was a problem though.  When he came up with the theory of relativity, he could see that the equations contracted the whole universe into one singularity.  At that point all laws of space and time collapsed.  In his mind that couldn’t be, so in 1917 Albert Einstein inserted a term called the cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity to force the equations to predict a stationary universe. When it became abundantly clear that the universe wasn't actually static, but was expanding instead, Einstein abandoned the constant, calling it the '"biggest blunder" of his life.[1]

What stood in the way was the religious connotations that the universe had a beginning and that it came from nothing.  The philosophy that the universe came from nothing already had a long history of debate even outside of Christian circles.  So much so, that it has a fancy Latin name “creatio ex nihilo” meaning “creation out of nothing”.  We might argue that too since Hebrews 11:3 (ESV) says,

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

It does not say “nothing” but that which is not visible.  Physicists have had to come to try to grapple with this very thing through quantum physics but in the end it always leads us back to God, an intelligent first cause.  This is a tenet of our faith that God has created all things out of apparent nothingness, and for the world, it is too incredible to fathom.

As is the physical so is the spiritual.  There is a natural creation and there is a spiritual creation.  Isn’t it a wonderful miracle that God can take some “nothing” as you and I and create something in his image?  The natural man doesn’t understand this.  Spiritual thinking does not come naturally.  Just as the universe was created by the will of God so too are we.  In a way, just as we did not have any part in our natural birth so it seems our spiritual birth is all dependent upon the creative act of God on our hearts.

There has to be the humble recognition that without God we would be nothing.  Jesus says in John 15:5,

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Even Jesus says this of his relationship to the Father in 5:19,

“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”

All our sufficiency is of God.  To be truly something then instead of nothing in God’s eyes is to abide in the vine and bear fruit.  The fruit is love as Jesus says in 15:8-9,

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.  (9)  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”

It will come as no surprise then when we turn those beautiful words on love that Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:1-3 we find the similar theme.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  (2)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  (3)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

No truer words can be said about our value or worth in the sight of God.  The only way we can be truly something, is to deny self and love one another.  Now here is a paradigm: without love we are nothing but to love we have admit we are nothing.

I think Paul exemplified this in his life.  The Corinthians in ways “pushed his buttons” and made him say things about himself he was not comfortable saying.  They compelled him to boast in his accomplishments.  He says in 2 Cor. 3:3-6 (ESV),

“you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (4) Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. (5) Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, (6) who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…”

Do you see how Paul goes to pains to make sure they understand that he is not boasting about his accomplishments?  He is taking credit for nothing.  Everything he has done is all due to God.  He comes to the point in 12:11 when he says,

“I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

What a wonderful example for us.  A man who had done so much yet really considered himself to be nothing at all.  I wonder if he struggled with pride.  He must have but he kept reminding himself that truly all the glory goes to God.  His ability to truly empty himself made his love so great. 

The Spirit of Meekness

Paul says in Romans 8:9,

“If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” 

These are sobering words and a clear test.  Do we have the spirit of Christ?  This is the most important question anyone can ask himself.  The spirit of Christ is the mind of Christ – a spirit of sympathy, kindness, compassion and mercy.  It was an outward looking mindset realizing the weaknesses of our own nature, not condoning sin, not condoning false doctrine, but sincerely desirous of helping others out of the way of sin. 

Humilty manifests itself in our relationships—to God, to ourselves and to others.  Humility is the ability to see ourselves as God see us.  When we are humble towards God and conscious of our own sins, then we have the right mindset to reach out to others.   We have to have the awareness of being nothing as Paul brings out in Galatians 6:1-3,

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (2) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

When others fall, it is so easy to judge and think we are so much better.  We compare ourselves with others and think ourselves something special.  In all reality though it should make us more humble.  We ought to be impressed by how fragile we are by ourselves.

Bro. Dennis Gillet put it this way in Genius of Discipleship,

“Think what failure often is—the result of weakness combined with opportunity; inclination suddenly joined by favorable circumstances.  Some people are straight because they lack the chance to be crooked.  It means we have no cause to be superior.  Have we met the temptation face to face, defied it, overcome it and passed through the ordeal unscathed and triumphant.  Or are we intact simply because so far we are untried?  So the wisdom of God through Paul says, ‘Consider thyself, lest thou also be tempted.’”


With this frame of mind, we now come before the memorials of our Lord’s sacrifice.  A man who had nothing, not even anywhere to lay his head, yet he was content.  Jesus was poor yet he was rich in everything that mattered.  There has been no one who knew so well that the flesh profits nothing, and that it is the spirit that gives life.  Paul says in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus “made himself of no reputation.”   Literally, it means he emptied himself of any vestige of self-importance.  The NIV translates it as, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”  This is our example that we should have the same mind, esteeming others better then ourselves, looking not out only for our own interests but the interests of others.

We now come to that moment where Paul has told us “let a man examine himself.”  He didn’t say examine others but examine your own self.  Put yourself to the test.  Do I think of myself something when I am really nothing?  Do I have the spirit of Christ?