Jun 07 The Nothing we so often do.

The nothing we so often do

            I have been thinking about nothing recently.


            I found myself spending some time carefully pondering nothing.

            At first sight, this sounds like an admission of guilt, a confession of laziness. “What does the minister think his priorities are, if he can devote valuable time to… well… nothing!”

In fact, it is connected with my preparations for holiday. But it is more than that…. read on…

As holiday time approaches, I keep an eye out for some books to read whilst we go camping. An important part of being on holiday, for me, is having time to lose myself in a good read. I enjoy reading science fiction, and so there are one or two of that genre joining the ‘holiday pile’. Then there is a Robert Goddard mystery. Occasionally, in bookshops, I browse looking for books for my summer reading and recently I came across some books about ‘nothing’. In fact they were about the concept of zero. I discovered a plethora of books on that subject lining a bookshelf in a shop some time ago. Here are two titles I came across:

The nothing that is: a brief history of zero”

“Zero: the biography of a dangerous idea”

            These are books on ‘popular mathematics’, regarding, as far as I could see, the history and significance of the concept of zero.

            I suppose one way of thinking about zero is that when we add it, nothing changes. I add zero to my Savings Account and, not surprisingly, nothing changes. This is terribly disappointing, but experience over many years confirms this sad fact.


            I found myself wondering about how much ‘nothing’ I spend my time doing, even when I am busy. How much energy is expended in that which adds nothing to the work of the Kingdom? How much activity is no more than a pointless expenditure of time? In many respects, all our scurrying about is no more than ‘much ado about nothing’, unless that activity has first been given over to the Lord in prayer.

            I think of all the frantic rushing around in which we can involve ourselves, and I wonder how much it actually contributes to what is important. It is entirely possible (for a minister certainly) to have a diary that is jam-packed with activity, but wrongly approached, that activity may add up to precisely zilch in terms of the Kingdom.


            Jesus said ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5) which means that in order to avoid relentless activity which goes nowhere, we need to include Christ. I am thinking of printing that verse out and sticking it to the computer screen on my desk as a daily reminder not to allow myself to get sucked into activity that has not first been given over to Christ in prayer.

            More than this, there is the danger that we come to believe that our activity will actually achieve something by itself; that busyness will provide automatic fruitfulness. In other words, we run the risk of depending on ourselves rather than on Christ and the false god of self-reliance draws our worship.

            We need to remember our Lord’s affirmation: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’

            Here is a quotation to ponder:

            “When we depend upon organisations, we get what organisations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.”(A.C. Dixon)

            As individuals, and as a fellowship, how much of our activity is prayer saturated, and how much adds up to nothing? Without Christ we can do nothing.

            With all best wishes for the summer months

            Your friend and minister

            Martin Thomson

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