About nothing, one may think, nothing can be said. It does look like an unlikely subject for a teaching. Plato would disagree; he said “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” Around 1600 Shakespeare wrote a famous play, “Much Ado About Nothing.” A modern author, Jarod Kintz, wrote, “If you have nothing, then you have everything, because you have the freedom to do anything, without the fear of losing something.”
In the method of Bible teaching called “Word Study” we follow one word in the Bible and discover its usage and hopefully an application or two. I am noted for teaching that we should read the Bible how it was written, just like we read any other book: line by line, paragraph by paragraph. However, there are some subjects that require a topical approach, and then there are word studies, biographical studies, and so on. Let’s try out the word study method in the New Testament with the word “Nothing.” In the King James New Testament there are 115 “nothings!”
“And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!…” (Luke 5:5 ESV). This is the nothing of self-effort.
Whether it be in business or employment, or in church growth or biblical understanding, we have all been there and known the helplessness of feeling we haven’t advanced or improved at all. In this case, Simon Peter, James, and John had fished all night without any fish in the bottom of the boats to sell or eat! In the previous verse, Jesus had told Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” If we know what the God says about a situation, then we’ll know plenty!
Now we are starting to learn something. Jesus has said there are fish out there, so just go back out and let down your nets. Peter first considered his vast knowledge of fishing on the Sea of Galilee, but then something clicked or he got a revelation from God. He declared, “… But at your word I will let down the nets.” A helpless yet experienced fisherman plus the Son of God equals success every time if you fulfill his conditions.
Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing“ (15:5). There are two roads to travel: the road of self-effort or the road of reliance on Christ as a branch of the true vine. You make the decision. So how’s “nothing” looking to you right now? I trust you see it as an opportunity.
Let’s take another usage. “And he [Jesus] said to them [the twelve disciples], ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.'” (Luke 22:35). This is the nothing of complete supply. The incident is given in Matthew chapter 10, where Jesus sent out the disciples to conduct healing revivals: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (verse 10).
The twelve disciples believed what Jesus said, went out and discovered that without the presence of Jesus they could still use his power and that everyday physical needs were supplied, for they lacked “nothing.” If God did this for the disciples, surely He will do as much for us New Testament believers who have been granted “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3), who are being blessed in Christ “with all every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3), who are in truth “complete in him” (Colossians 2:10). We can do a lot with “nothing!”
Finally, one more verse, the nothing of self assessment. Paul wrote, “…For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (II Corinthians 12:11b-12). The Message Bible reads, “You know from personal experience that even if I’m a nobody, a nothing, I wasn’t second-rate compared to those big-shot apostles you’re so taken with.” It is dangerous to believe your own publicity!
Because you might know the Word better than most, because you might have healed the sick and cast out demons, because you might have brought many people to a new life in Christ, just like Paul, yet without total reliance on God, you too are nothing. Look at the “nothing” usages in I Corinthians 13:2,3: “I am nothing,” “I gain nothing.”
So about “nothing” a lot can be said! Learn from these incidents how to serve and worship God better and rely on him to make something out of your life. “Everybody is a somebody with God.”