Successful Living

Successful Living

Successful Living: D3TG
Dr. Oliver P. Cabanag, M.D., FPPS

(Message delivered on August 23, 2015 at the Silliman University Church during the Sunday worship service launching the Silliman University High School Centennial Celebration in 2016.)

We ONLY have one life. We only live ONCE,   but as they say,   if we do it right  and if we LIVE LIFE SUCCESSFULLY,  then ONCE is … enough!  

So, we all strive to do it right; we ALL STRIVE to live life SUCCESSFULLY.

Yet, different people have different concepts and different ideas about SUCCESS IN LIFE. Some people think that SUCCESSFUL LIVING is when you are able to get what you want. Other people think it is
being able to enjoy what you get!

Still others believe that success is when you are able to rise again, after you have fallen down…and we all fall down,  and we all can LOSE our way…and,  like Thomas, we might ask, Lord, how can we know the way?

Success in life is getting to KNOW THE WAY, and that is getting to know CHRIST, who is HIMSELF the way, the truth, and the life; accepting Him as our Lord and saviour. SUCCESS in life could NOT be
SWEETER as when we  have FOUND our way and, at the end of the day, come to the FATHER, in His HOUSE of many mansions, through JESUS CHRIST our Lord!

Jesus is the ONLY way.  Unfortunately for some, THIS WAY could be difficult, and sweet success would be hard to come by.
My dear friend Elgie, Mrs. Elgie Melad, has said, and I quote: “Some people argue that THE WAY IS TOO NARROW. In reality, it is actually wide… wide enough for the WHOLE WORLD, if the world chooses to accept it”…and, may I add, if with strength of FAITH, we tear down the thorns and  the barriers that make the  pathway APPARENTLY small!

Ladies and gentlemen, we can talk lengthily, religiously, and seriously about SUCCESS IN LIFE but for a moment, let us take a turn and tarry on the LIGHTER SIDE.  

Let us consider what Albert Einstein once expressed. Einstein said that if A is success, then the formula for success is A = X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play, and what do you think is Z- Z is, according
to Mr. Einstein, keeping your mouth shut! Of course we know what the great scientist actually meant. He must have meant that we should enjoy our work, much like playing, and not talk, much less
brag about what we are trying to accomplish.

In reality, this could be difficult. Working and playing while at the same time keeping our mouths shut could be difficult, so, we might not be able to LIVE LIFE SUCCESSFULLY now, or any time in the future.  

Maybe, just maybe, we could use another formula. Perhaps, with apologies to Mr Einstein, we can use a code instead of his formula, maybe, Code: “D3TG”.   

“D3TG” could be a code to follow NOT ONLY to SUCCEED, but even as a GUIDE to live our lives with MEANING AND PURPOSE, so that in the end, our light could SHINE before men, AND they, seeing our good works, shall glorify Jesus Christ, Christ who is the VIA,  VERITAS, VITA…. Christ who showed the way by HIMSELF walking the way, Christ who did not only teach but HIMSELF EMBODIED moral truth,
Christ who has MADE and makes our LIFE worth living!  

So, “D3TG”, just what is this code? Well, if we look at the code more closely, we can see that it contains one letter D, three letter T’s, and one letter G. To unlock this code is to determine what the letters

“D3TG” thus unlocked can start with a letter “D” as in DREAM, and we “T” as in TOIL, then we “T” as in TRUST in God, then we “T” again as in THANK the Lord, and finally “G” as in GIVE back and share our

Alright, so first we talk about letter “D”: Dream! The greatest dreamer, to me, was of course Joseph. This son of Jacob had big dreams, worked and toiled for his dreams, suffered for his dreams, and as you very well know realized his dream as time came when like the stacks of hay, the brothers bowed down to his authority. What made this dreamer great, however, was not the authority bestowed on him by his position but by his remarkable willingness to forgive. This, of course, is beside the point. We are talking about dreams.

We could have big dreams, we could also have little dreams. No matter how tiny or how grandiose our dreams may be, we just have to have a dream! As Bloody Mary in the movie “South Pacific”
expressed in her song “Happy Talk”, “you’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how could you have a dream come true?”

Truthfully, though, we can not just have a dream, so my sister Cynthia said. For us who believe in God, we seek for God’s dream for us, not only our own dreams, but God’s.  
Joseph’s dreams were explicitly given by God and God equipped him to enable the realization of his dreams. Joseph was thrown into prison where he rose to hone his skills as an administrator that he
was to be in the future. Joseph thus realized that his dream was not his own but God’S.

A dream, not a fantasy. We don’t dream to become the hero Superman, or dream to be alive on EARTH forever. We fantasize when we do that. I mean dream as to have a goal, a goal that is specific, achievable, and bounded by the time leased to us as mortals in this world. A goal to reach out for and achieve at least within one’s human lifetime.  

A poor boy from a small town in Negros had dreamt of becoming a medical doctor and despite a meager family income, he scrimped and studied hard so that in the end he got his M.D. degree. A nine-year-old street child from the national capital region dreamed of becoming a star and help the family rise out of the quagmire of poverty. She joined the search for the Voice Kids, Philippines and now she is admired even by people OUTSIDE the country.  

An impoverished bootblack from General Santos City dreamed of having some more so that he worked really hard even at his fights outside the ring so that on top of becoming a world boxing icon, he
eventually became an able congressman and  kind philanthropist. 

Dreaming, however, is not all we have to do. All we have to do is not just dream. We have to push forward and go on to the next letter in the code, letter “T”, and that is Toil! Work! Work hard to make the dream a reality. Commit to excellence and unrelentlessly pursue our dreams. Like it is said, we can dream more, but we have do more to become more! Now this could be the DIFFICULT part.

I remember one great pastor in one of the churches I go to, having said that everyone goes through periods of difficulty. He said that in everyone’s life are two seasons: The Wine Press season, and the Season of Fresh New Wine! First face the wine press before you taste the fresh wine.

I wonder if some of us have seen the movie the title of which I cannot remember. Please excuse this senior moment. How can I expect you to remember a movie the title of which I cannot even recall? Anyway, in this movie, the hero, Keanu Reeves, falls in love with a beautiful girl whose family owned a vineyard somewhere in the Napa Valley or it may have been in Italy. What struck me in the movie was not the unfolding of a love story but the visualization of how awfully interesting wine –making could be. The scenes that bothered me were those wherein the actor and the beautiful girl, fully in street clothes, danced, stomped their bare feet, and fell inside a tub of sweet, freshly picked grapes. Along with many other friends also in their street clothes, they jumped and pounded their feet, crushing every little grape that came under their feet. Crushed now then again, and again, the fruits just oozed in agony, and as they bled, sweet wine dripped over into hungry collecting ducts which later turned to  oak barrels of smooth and sparkling red wine.

Truly, when we are pressed hard, we can produce the sparkling red wine, the so-called ‘polished diamond’ which otherwise could stay rough and dormant if we continue to avoid the fiery furnace!

The Wine Press Season, the break?through, then the Season of Fresh new wine.

Toiling earnestly to carry our dreams to reality is to enter into the Wine Press season. At these moments of our lives we encounter small as well as great difficulties. We have to deal with these obstacles. We can deal with these difficulties knowing that God, gives every bird a worm, but He does not throw it into the nest! We just have to ‘toil’ earnestly, work hard, and get our own ‘worm’.

The street child had to skip meals like she usually does and even borrow fare money just to get to the venue for the auditions. Toiling patiently, practicing constantly, and doing better than her best in presenting her talent gave her a slot in the contest and eventually the national championship.

The bootblack from General Santos also skipped meals, and despite protein and calorie malnutrition, he persisted to toil and punch the bag, allow facial cuts and bruises, dealt with transient hematuria post-championship fights, and although difficulties came like bolts of lightning, with Pacman’s earnest and persistent  toil, the storms did not break but only made the oak tree stronger! Pacman, who once was lost, EVENTUALLY found his WAY in Christ, realized  the true saviour and the TRUTH that is Christ, and now even on Facebook, is sharing his LIFE in Christ. Really inspiring!

Pacman has made it easier for us to understand that along the road to the realization of our dreams are trials, tests, and temptations, strewn so that we may honor and RELY on the Way, the Truth, and the Life.   

Now, let us proceed to the second T in our Code. Trust. Thus far, we have talked of having a DREAM, a realistic dream to become better than we are. Then we talked of earnest TOIL; working really hard to achieve and realize that dream. We might have to work our fingers to the bone. We may even have to run to where the brave would never go. Yet, we could still fail! The possibility of failure  will always be there, but obviously this does not negate success. The possibility of success is just as real. We only have to TRUST: TRUST in the Lord… and trust in ourselves.

Trusting in the Via Veritas Vita, gives us wisdom, guidance, strength, and grace, so as not to COMPROMISE and SIN against HIm. Trusting God EMPOWERS us so that we are able to achieve what we aspire to accomplish. Trusting God gives us confidence to do what we are actually capable of achieving.  

This reminds me of a story written by Linnea Sandvall about a little girl named Hannah. Although the story was made for children and told to children in Sunday school, the concepts involved could still have some important impact on us who were also children not too long ago…and that’s only a little over 60 years ago for most of us in the Silliman University High School Class of 1965!…right, Leo? Vivian? Evelyn? Right! We can still be as little children; we don’t feel old, we don’t look old, and we deny that we are old. We are still young, only a little over 65 years young.  

Alright, so here’s the story.  

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Hannah and her brother, Joey, ate lunch quickly because their parents promised to take them on a bike ride that afternoon. Hannah had just learned how to bike and
felt like such a big girl, now that she can drive around without training wheels. When everyone was ready, Hannah’s family started off on their bike ride and were having a great time. Smiling and laughing, Hannah was doing a great job. She was following her parents and had no trouble pedaling her bike up the hills they rode on. She was having a blast.

On their way home, Hannah suddenly used her brakes and stopped her bike. She looked in front of her and saw that she was at the top of a hill. ‘What’s wrong, Hannah?’ her mother asked.

‘I’m not going down that hill’ Hannah said. Her eyes were filling up with tears and her hands started shaking.   

‘That hill is too steep Daddy, I don’t want to go down it” Hannah said. Tears started rolling down Hannah’s face. What if she went too fast, she thought. What if she crashed because she couldn’t brake and stop her bike? Hannah was too scared to move.

Hannah’s Dad got off his bike and came and stood next to Hannah. ‘Hannah, we know that you can do this. We wouldn’t make you do something that you weren’t ready to do. How about if I stand next to you and keep my hand on the seat of your bike? I won’t let you fall’. Hannah was still shaking and scared. ‘But’, she thought,‘I know that my dad won’t let me fall. He is bigger and stronger than me and I know he doesn’t want me to get hurt’.

Hannah’s mom knelt beside her and said ‘You know that we love you Hannah, and you can TRUST us’. After a minute, although still a bit scared, Hannah trusted her parents.

Hannah’s dad put his hand on the bike seat. Hannah put her feet on the pedals and started down the hill. At first she wobbled as she pedaled but after a few seconds she was well on her way. Soon she was down and safely over the hill. Soon, she was safely home with the family. She had DONE it, even if most of the way her dad had moved his hand AWAY from the bike seat. Her dad was ALWAYS ready to catch her if she fell. Her dad ALWAYS had her back.

The bible tells us to love and trust God. Joshua chapter 1, verse 9, says, ”This is my command: be strong and of good courage. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Psalm 37 verses 23-24 state that The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for The Lord holds them by the hand. Trust Jesus, who is the TRUTH, the one true God who holds the whole world in His hands.

Trust that Jesus lives, and all our fears shall be gone. “Trust Jesus to take us to the Father and all the benefits of being God’s child will be ours”, another quote from Elgie Melad. Great, indeed is God’s faithfulness to us!

God is so good to us and we can always rely on Him for truly He provides whatever we may need. God’s provision can not only be gleaned from biblical passages but even from scientific studies.

Researchers at the University if California in San Francisco have found out that a variant of the KLOTHO gene, an allele (another form of a gene which allows genetic variation), determined the size of a region of the human brain  called the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for cognitive function, planning, decision-making, and working memory, and is that region of our brains that deteriorates and atrophies as people grow old. The team found out  that among people with greater longevity, or among people who probably because of a healthy lifestyle get to live longer, their rDLPF region of the brain is larger and the KLOTHO allele code to produce more of the protein called Klotho which giveS old people a boost, and confer resilience in aging. So God has provided that even in old age, we can still  have a good measure  of planning  and decision-making functions! Really AWESOME!

Realizing all these, we can not help but be truly grateful, and this leads us to the third letter T in our code, D3TG, and that is T for THANKSGIVING or thankfulness.

For all HIS blessings, guidance, and protection, we thank GOD! For having been able to bike safely down the hill, we give thanks; for having DONE it, we give thanks; and for coming HOME to Silliman where quality christian education has SEALED us to the Via, Veritas, Vita, we give thanks.

Thank you very much, Silliman University. Our Silliman High School classmate, Dinah Viernes-Milne, an
australian, has this to say: Silliman University graduates roam the world “o’er near and far” and many have been thrown into situations never imagined; but everyone has done well in the lifepaths and careers they have chosen because our Alma Mater gave us an education.. that developed NOT ONLY our skills for the workforce but even as human beings who have BODIES as well as SOULS! Very aptly said, Dinah.  

Our classmate Maxwell, now based in Florida, also had this to add: Knowledge of God and the bible which I learned in studies both at Silliman High School and in College, helped me when I had the chance to travel around the country, having been involved in the struggle for social justice. Knowledge of Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, was the strenghthening force that helped me as I served the least of our brethren. So said Maxwell Pontenila, my very good friend.

Allow me NOW to add just a small piece about thankfulness. I’m sure that at this point, you want me to rush to letter G in our code so we can all start going home. Please let me continue. I have only seventeen more pages to go. No, we’re almost done. 

So, letter T, Thanks. Thankfulness could be ‘prodigal’ as in the prodigal son, one pastor told me. We could be prodigal if we think in terms of entitlement, like the son who felt that his father owed him, and as his son he was entitled to his inheritance. It might be difficult to be truly thankful for anything which one feels he is entitled to. True thankfulness entails gratitude and appreciation. Gratefulness for what we receive but are not even deserving of. Appreciation, too, for the good we see in others. We have to be appreciative even for our own sake. Voltaire has said, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us, as well.

Thankfulness also, connotes rejoicing. We rejoice as we express our thanks! We rejoice as we thank God for all His blessings. HEADS UP, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS! Happiness is knowing that we have so much to be thankful for.

Finally, the last letter in our code. Letter G. Give, as in giving back; sharing our blessings.

We have seen how Joseph the dreamer gave back. We have seen how the Pacman has given back. We have seen how people all over the world gave back with such great compassion to victims of Yolanda and other calamities, building homes and bridges, feeding hungry children, rebuilding lives. We have seen how Dr. Jose Rizal and other heroes, even how the “Fallen 44” have ultimately given back their lives in pursuit of national security and global peace. Yet, must we die in order to give back? Yes, that could be the ultimate sacrifice. But no, I really don’t have to die, yet. That’s not the only way!

There are other ways of giving back, and it’s not even about the money. We may not have enough money to build schools, roads and bridges; not enough resources to build homes for the homeless; but we can give a son a tap on the shoulder telling him, ‘that was a good job, son”; or give the wife a sweet kiss thanking her for the great dinner; or we can  visit those who are sick or those who are in prison, give water to the thirsty, extend a guiding hand to strangers,  and inspire those who are depressed.

There are several other ways of giving back and one other way is how a young doctor gave back in the following story which you may have already heard before.

There was once a harried young man who rushed to the doctor’s office puffing, sweating profusely, apparently out of breath, and shouting, ‘Doc, please help me, help me, Doc, please help me!’.
Taking the young man’s hand, the doctor said, “Okay, ‘bro, relax, have a seat. What’s the problem?” His body shaking crazy, the young man said, “Sir, bees are buzzing and running after me, they’re right here now, over my head, at my back, over my shoulders, help me doc, please help me!” Looking around and not seeing a single buzzing bee, the doctor  instructed the young man, “Come over here now,
okay, take a deep breath, then raise both your hands as high as you can reach out, and drive them all, shoo all of those darn bees, everyone of those buzzing bees, drive them all, ALL over to ME!” Having done so, the young man’s shaking stopped. In a split moment, the young man became quiet, and in another split moment, a smile. “Thank you very much, Doctor!”, gratefuly the young man said. Softly, the doctor replied, ‘… just giving back, Bro!’

My friend, my classmate, Elsa Chiong-Orlina, has this to say: God notices everything that you do and He sees you as a wonderful person. You will always be part of some OTHER people’s lives. You may never find out where you fit but OTHERS will fill up the empty spaces in their lives with pieces of you!

Thus, shall YOU also, have given back!  
D3TG. Dream, Toil, Trust, Thank, and Give back! Reach for the sun, shine, and give back LIGHT to others… succeed,….and SUCCESS is SWEETER, when we  GIVE BACK BECAUSE we have FOUND the WAY that IS CHRIST, known the TRUTH which IS CHRIST, and lived the LIFE that IS CHRIST!

Shall we pray… Lord God, our Father in heaven, as we find our WAY through Jesus, so let success IN LIFE be ours, and let our lives be like a PEBBLE, thrown into the water to create a ripple of kindness and
gratitude; a tiny ripple in the beginning, but growing larger, and larger, and LARGER, and LARGER; reaching out to more people, touching more and more lives in the NAME of Jesus, AMEN!

JOHN 14:5-6
PSALM 37:23-24