Making something out of nothing is as old as creation.
Hebrews 11:3 tells us that
"through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
Some scientists would have us believe that matter changes form but does not "begin" or "cease" to exist. They would dispute the possibility of something being made out of "evidence" that proves the reality of God and His power to create something out of nothing.
We who have had a personal experience with God through faith know that He not only is, but that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
And not only that... we are living proof that God specializes in making something out of nothing!
The Tendancy to Create Something out of Nothing
But my concern, in this article, is not with God's ability to make something out of nothing. I am concerned about the tendency of believers to make something out of nothing. Too many of us are in the "creating" business. We take "nothings" and we make "somethings" out of them!
The believers' propensity for making issues out of non-issues was of great concern to the apostle Paul. He saw the Early Church straining at gnats and swallowing camels. He saw how quickly they replaced the Word of God with traditions of men. He saw that some were far more concerned with the "letter" than with the "spirit" of the law. In fact, He saw the essential "somethings" of God's kingdom violated and sometimes forfeited by controversies over "nothings." To his great distress, He saw righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost devastated by arguments over "meats" and "days" ... "nothings" that became sinister "somethings" that destroyed the work of God.
This concern lest nonessential prohibitions replace the basic elements of faith and worship is expressed again and again in the writings of Paul. Follow his emphasis as he says such things as:
"For meat (a nothing) destroy not the work of God (a something)" (Romans 14:20).
"If meat (a nothing) make my brother (a something) to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth lest I make my brother to offend" (Romans 14:15). (To Paul, a brother was "something" while meat was unimportant... a "nothing.")
"The kingdom of God is not meat and drink (nothings), but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (real something)"! (Romans 14:17).
"The cup of blessing which we bless (a nothing), is it not the communion of the blood of Christ (a something)?" (1 Corinthians 10:16).
"The bread that we break (a nothing), is it not the communion of the body of Christ (a something)?" (1 Corinthians 10:16).
Idolatry and Symbolism
"What shall I say then, that an idol is anything (an idol is a nothing), or that which is offered to idols is anything (meat offered to idols is a nothing)? But I say, that the things (the nothings) which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils (real somethings/ and not to God, and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (1 Corinthians 10:20).
"Whose adorning (Peter joins Paul in this emphasis) let it not be with that outward adorning of the braiding of the hair, and of the wearing of gold, or off-putting on of apparel (all of which are nothings), but let it be the hidden man of the heart in that which is incorruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (the real something) which is, in the sight of God, of great price" (1 Peter 3:3,4).
The call of this article is not for the abandonment of "nothings" by those who consider them important. God's great grace allows for those who, for conscience sake, emphasize or refrain from, the "nothings" of outward adornment, meats and days. Paul says, "Let every man be persuaded in his own mind about these "nothings," and he stresses the importance of not violating one's conscience.
However, if we analyze the contentions and the divisions that have occurred in the body of Christ, we will have to admit that "nothings" have divided the Church more than the "somethings."
Take, for instance, the mode of water baptism (a nothing). What great disputes have arisen over the method of administering this rite! I came out of a church that insisted on triune immersion ... face downward! I can still hear an opponent of this procedure ridiculing my parents, and challenging them to find one instance in which a man was buried three times, and at that, with his face downward! But isn't the fact that my parents had died to sin and had risen to new life in Christ the "something" that should have been emphasized? I think so. Not that I believe in triune immersion. I don't. My idea of "Bible" water baptism is single immersion ... face upward! But I certainly wouldn't sever relationship with my "something" brother because he didn't happen to agree with my "nothing" method of water baptism!
On the other hand, I can remember a relative of mine who lost her meek and quiet spirit (a something) the day my brother gave his fiancee an engagement ring (a nothing). My relative is an attractive woman, but an ugly spirit was her adornment that day! She allowed a "nothing" ring to spoil "something" beautiful in her.
I was asked one time to intervene in a controversy over "the cup" (a nothing) in a communion service. One faction believed in a single cup, while the other faction insisted on multiple cups. Communion services celebrate the "one bread" concept of the body of Christ (which really is a something)! How beautiful it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! But, in the case above, unity had been sacrificed on an altar of an argument over a "nothing"!
One pastor asked me if I practice foot washing. I said I would wash feet if I was with those who do. His voice hardened as he declared that if he ever became a pastor of a church where they weren't washing feet, they soon would be, because he would insist on it. I asked him if it had ever occurred to him that, by insisting on having his own way, he would be violating the principle of submission and service, the important "something" that Jesus was trying to teach by using, as an illustration, a "nothing" local custom.
And how often we get hung up on "the principle" of our nothings! We set our "standards" of dress and behavior, and then, for "principle's sake" we humiliate, embarrass, and harangue those who break with our concept of holiness. It doesn't seem to occur to us that our cutting remarks and our insensitivity to the feelings of others are sinful "somethings."
On the other hand, that which is intrinsically a "nothing" becomes a "something" when it incites sinful passion in us, or becomes a stumbling block to a brother. Inanimate objects have no moral qualities. They are only lifeless "things." They cannot be said to be either "good" or "evil." But man is different. Man is a moral being. He can be "good" and he can be "evil." The point we want to make is this: Man's morality can be adversely affected by the "nothings" with which he surrounds himself.
The Effect of Turning Something into Nothing
Take a television set, for instance. It is a "nothing." It has no moral character whatsoever. Yet, if I watch programs that seek to give normalcy and respectability to perversion, infidelity, illicit behavior and faith destroying lies, my "nothing" television set becomes a devastating "something" that can lead to my damnation. By devouring the garbage shown on it, I have turned a "nothing" into an evil "something”!
Conversely, it is possible to make a disastrous "nothing" into a glorious "something."
Negative "nothings" work together for positive "somethings" if we can accept the fact that God has a purpose in what He allows. For we who love the Lord, we can sing with the optimists, "Something good is going to happen to me!"
Of course, we've got to get on God's wavelength if we are to recognize the "something good" when we experience it. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink ... not merry-making and money ... not self-indulgence and soft living. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. These kingdom qualities are the "something good" that can happen to us. They are the glorious "somethings" God has prepared for those who love Him.
But what happens? We don't get that raise in salary we were expecting, and we set about making a sorry "something" out of a disappointing "nothing." We talk about it.
We complain about it. We rage about it. We let it eat on us until our righteousness, our peace, and our joy is destroyed ... all over a "nothing."
"But," you say, "I thought the raise in salary was the 'something good' that was going to happen to me. How can I say something good has happened?" Well, to tell the truth, you can't... not as long as your concept of "something good" is carnal. Something good could have happened to you, but you blew it. You could have had an extra measure of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. You could have made "something" out of your disappointing "nothing." But you didn't... and now you have neither a salary raise nor an improved character. God tried to let something good come your way and, because you value a salary "nothing" more than a Christlike "something," you ended up with neither!
What you need is a spiritual tune-up. You need to overhaul your value systems! A believer who values righteousness more than money won't let the lack of money rob him of righteousness. A believer who values peace more than pride will let his brother walk all over him rather than lose a "something" that passes all understanding. A believer who values joy in the Holy Ghost more than the sadistic satisfaction of blowing his stack will keep his tongue from sarcasm and his lips from inflicting pain. He will be a dispenser of joy because he knows that joy is a "something" of more value than his "rights." It takes no character or spiritual strength to make much ado about a "nothing." Any carnal fool can do it. But the joy of the Holy Ghost is a "something" well worth the price tag of self-control and self-abnegation.
Your child breaks the valuable china dish that has been in the family for three generations. Is that dish a "something" or is it a "nothing"? Well, it is something to treasure, but it is nothing over which to lose your righteousness, your peace, or your joy.
Your colleague got the nod over you for the job you both applied for ... even though you had more tenure and experience. Is that a "something" or is it a "nothing"? For the answer to this question, we need to get back to kingdom values again. The job was something to be desired and something to work for, but it is nothing to fight about, and it is nothing over which to lose a friendship. You could dissipate your priceless peace if you were to allow yourself to make "something" out of such a "nothing."
When God made this world. He took nothing and made something out of it. It has been many years now since God saved me and began to make "something" out of "nothing." I'm praying every day that I'll be sensitive to what He's trying to do in me. I don't want to thwart His purpose. And, above all, I certainly don't want to spend my life contending for "nothings" and miss the supreme "somethings" of God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost!