Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
Another animal/fowl story: Old Mother Duck sighed. Six eggs had hatched. She had a brood of six of the finest ducklings you would ever want to see. But the seventh egg refused to hatch. It was a bigger egg than the others had been. Perhaps it needed more time. So she settled herself on the nest once more and covered the seventh egg.
She started to worry and asked, “Why won’t my seventh egg hatch?” She was really just beginning to think that she would have to leave this last egg, for her other six little ducklings were beginning to get far too lively to be left alone any longer. At last she heard the tapping sound from inside the egg, which told her that the seventh baby was about to be born. She stood aside and watched.
All at once the shell was shattered and out popped a little head and a neck.
Mother Duck gasped. This baby wasn’t a bit like the other babies–like her other beautiful six yellow, fluffy, ducklings. It had a long neck and its feathers were a rather dirty color. It was ugly. But still it was Mother Duck’s baby, so she fussed over it lovingly while its feathers dried out. Then she ushered it out in the sunshine to play with its other six brothers and sisters.
The ugly ducking waddled shyly toward them, but when they saw him coming they all stopped quacking and stared. Then they turned their backs and ran away. Mother Duck pretended not to notice their unkindness. “Come children,” she called, “Time to learn to swim. Come along now.” She led the way to the pond with all the little yellow ducklings following her in a line, and the ugly little duckling bringing up the rear.
They all splashed around the in the water. Of all of them, the ugly ducking swam the best, which didn’t please the others at all. He tried to join in their games, but they swam away from him just because he looked so different from them all. He was so ugly.
At the end of the day, he was a very sad and lonely little duckling. At the end of the week he felt still worse. Nobody wanted him, apart from his mother, who bravely tried to act as if he were no different from the others. His mother was the only friend he had; he loved her dearly
Then there came a day when he tried to be friendly to an old duck who promptly attacked him. Of course, his mother flew to his rescue and the old duck pecked her cruelly before she fled to the shelter of the reeds. The ugly ducking was dreadfully upset. All because of him, his dear mother was hurt. Nobody wanted him. And now, because of him, they were turning upon her too.
He made his way down to the water’s edge. With a tear in his eye he waved good-bye to his family and his mother. They didn’t know he was going away, but he swam away anyway, never to return.
By now he was growing big and strong, even if he was still so ugly, and he managed to find enough to eat. But still nobody would have anything to do with him. And if he saw any other creatures coming, he would hide until they passed.
One day as he hid among the reeds at a lakeside far from his home, a flock of swans swam by. He thought, “They are the most beautiful creatures that I’ve ever seen. How wonderful it would be to be like them!” He shed a tear in the water.
Then winter came. With the cold and the rain he had a very hard time indeed with no shelter from the cruel weather. But somehow he managed on his own until spring came . . . at last. It was so lovely and he was so glad to be alive, even though he was so lonely.
One fine morning he was swimming out on a lake when a voice behind him said, “Hello, friend.”
He turned around quickly and there were swans. “Hello,” he said.
“We’re pleased to see you,” they said. They were actually friendly to him. He just couldn’t believe it.
Then one of them said, “Why are you alone? Why don’t you swim with us?”
“May I? May I really?” he stammered.
“Why not?” came the reply,
“You’re a swan, aren’t you?” Then he looked down at his reflection in the water and how amazed he was. He was really a swan.
During the winter, all of his drab feathers had fallen away and he was shining white; a graceful swan. So he swam away with the other swans and he lived happily ever after.
Have you ever felt different and at least a little isolated from other people? I know I have. Have they ever isolated you and didn’t want anything to do with you because you were just a little bit different or hatched a little later? Again, I have.
Remember during your childhood. There were others who seemed to go so much faster than you. You were a little bit slower, but you were taking your own time, getting up your own speed. Or, you didn’t go along with the crowd, maybe because they wouldn’t go with you or share in your ideas or beliefs. Or you felt out of place for some reason. Perhaps it is because you swam a little bit better and a little bit faster than the crowd, and the crowd did not like you at all because of that. Perhaps you have been criticized or rejected for your beliefs, or maybe for your positive outlook or because you had a special smile on your face that others did not recognize.
Or maybe this is all coming from inside of yourself. Maybe you feel rejected–not by anyone outside of you but by something inside of you. Maybe you feel a kind of spiritual discontent and you don’t know why. You feel like that person who is trying to hatch out of his or her egg, but you haven’t quite got it yet; you haven’t quite hatched.
I have a question for you. Should the baby swan have stayed and tried to change the ducks into being swans? Should the baby have just stayed there, and no matter how bad it was, should he have tried to convince them that they, too, could be like him?
Sometimes, we have to leave the past and walk on into the future.
“God saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to God’s own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
Then there was a child in a class in school. This child excelled in one way–the way we all do in some area of our life. This child was ridiculed because this child excelled in this one area of his life. What this child found was that a duck school is going to teach you to be a good duck. If you’re a swan, you have to find other swans to be with and you have to find a swan school. This is what this boy eventually did, and this is why this boy is excelling today.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1
In this life it takes great courage to be a swan. Each one of you is a swan in some area of your life. You have taken courage to rise above the crowd or even the mob to lift out of the mediocrity of the masses, to rise up out of old habit thoughts and concepts about yourself.
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2
It takes great courage to rise above appearances and to know that you are mightier than circumstances, mightier than the environment that you have been placed in or born in.
When you are in an environment where you seem to be surrounded by critics, skepticism and negativity, you better be connected to an environment which is holy within you. You have an inner fortitude of spiritual strength and power. You know!
Here is the swan’s list to success:
#1. You no longer wish you are someone else.
#2. You give yourself permission to be you–unique, special, not a duplicate, or Xerox copy.
#3. You use what you have to the glory of God.
#4. Like what you’ve got and appreciate your gifts.
#5. Realize you have been created by God to do something special and unique. Even if you haven’t hatched fully out of your egg yet, realize that. Do not concentrate on the limitations of your human mind concept about yourself. Concentrate, instead, on God’s concept of you.
#6. Create your own world by allowing God to think through you. Every time you’re put down, put God up. Every time someone knocks down your dream, have God reconstruct it right in front of your eyes. Every time somebody doesn’t like you, or rejects you, go to the One who always loves you.
It was a real shock when you went out into the world and you met people for the first time who didn’t like you, didn’t appreciate you, or even rejected you. But when that happens to you, please go to the One who always accepts you; go to the Comforter within.
Here’s a cute story. There was a student who was writing a theological paper. On his paper he wrote, “The Lord has taken away our guilt,” but he misspelled ‘guilt’ and he wrote: “The Lord has taken away our quilt.”
In the margin the instructor wrote, “That’s okay because he’s given us the Comforter.”
The Bible says, “Not my will but Thine be done.” It is to remind us every day to allow God’s will to be done in us and through us.
Sometimes when we push our own idea, we create an environment that is not holiness, but hellish. I’ll give you an example. At Dublin’s Abbey Theater, the poet-playwright W. B. Yeats was looking for realism in his theater. He was working to create the lighting effects for a glorious sunset. Hour after hour he worked with the lighting staff to try every conceivable combination of color and intensity. At last he saw exactly the effect he wanted and he cried to those helping him, “That’s it. Hold it!”
And they cried down, “Sorry, sir, we can’t. The theater’s on fire.” That’s a true story.
When you look back on your life, sometimes you may have tried to create your own environment, you laugh because you know a lot of those times it was the worst possible thing you could have done because you did it from human mind. You did it through all the false concepts you had about yourself and you created that environment.
If you create an environment for yourself based on a self-image that is created through you by realizing you are made in the image and likeness of God, you will reset your mind and therefore reset your environment.
Psalms 131:1-3 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”
Allow you to be you as God’s creation – you are His child.
Let us pray.
Dear God, I realize this day with Your help that I am not bound by anything. No past thoughts inside of me hold me down. My soul rejoices in this realization. Gone are the limitations of yesterday. Every trace has vanished like a veil before the morning sun. Thank You, Lord.
Gone are the vain regrets. All the possibilities of this new day stretch before me, inviting me onward and upward. Thanks You, sweet Jesus.
I am one with the overcoming triumphant spirit of Christ. All power is given to Him in heaven and on earth, and He shows and shares with me. It is lifting me to ever-increasing heights of love and success in my spiritual walk.
In Jesus Christ’s name I pray and I believe . . . Amen.