Starting Over: The Lifestyle of the Man of God — Part 1

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Starting Over: The Lifestyle of the Man of God — Part 1

Posted on 27 May 2024

Extracted from ‘Starting Over’ by Doug Sparks (2013) 


*The contents of this book were originally messages spoken by Doug Sparks at a 1975 Navigator staff conference in the USA. The messages have been transcribed and edited to facilitate reading, while preserving the intent of their author and conveying a vital sense of the man behind the message. The original Scripture quotations from the King James Version have been updated to the New King James Version.

The Man of God*

The year after my wife Leila went home to be with the Lord, I began to study – not for a series of messages, but just for Doug Sparks – to find out what things I should major on in my life as a Christian and a servant of God. As I reflected on Leila’s home-going and all the Lord was teaching me, I wanted to get involved with eternal realities.

As C. S. Lewis wrote,


All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”

I wanted to get more in tune with Jesus Christ. I didn’t want to spend my life and ministry on short transitory things.

I realized in a new way that God really is preparing us for heaven. And the more that we can show some heaven and some Christ-likeness down here, the more the light shines, the more the salt works, and the more the Kingdom of God is advanced.

Once, after I spoke at a Bible college, a young Bible student came up to me and said, “I’m tired of being a babe in Christ. I want to be a man of God, and I want to be a man of God right now!” I looked at him and said, “You know, if I could give my little six-month-old Kent a pill, and all of a sudden he’d be a strong young man, and he could go to Australia and win every gold medal at the Olympics this year and break every Olympic record, defeat the Russians singlehandedly and come back a great national hero, how do you think I would feel, as his father?”

I said, “I would feel as though I had been robbed, cheated out of all those years of seeing that little fellow grow and develop, stumble and fall.” You’ve got to get it in perspective. God is getting you ready for heaven. And when the Second Coming comes, no matter whether you are much of a man or woman of God, you know you going to see Him and you are going to be just like Him.

But the wonderful thing about it now is, we are in the process of becoming more and more like Christ. It is slow in its growth, so just keep on going where you are and saying, “Lord, what is the next step for me?” and remember God is your Father and He loves you just the way you are.

I must confess I get irritated with my kids, but I love them. Even the difficulties they go through just draw us closer together. And that’s the way God is. So as we get into this topic, do keep this in mind. Now when we speak on becoming a man or woman of God, where is the emphasis? Is your focus on, “I want to be a MAN of God”?

I remember those early days when many of our staff were reading books on Hudson Taylor and other great men of God. We wanted to be MEN of God — someone they would write a biography about, someone who would go down in the annals of church history, some great missionary or some great preacher or some great man of faith.

That isn’t what I’m going to be talking about. This series, I trust, will be more about being a man and a woman (in small letters) of GOD. This is what we want to be. A man of God is one who is becoming like Jesus Christ. The whole emphasis is on godliness, on Christ, on God-likeness.

E. M. Bounds in his book, Power through Prayer, says a lot about this:

“What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations, or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use. Men of prayer. Men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come down on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, strategies and tactics, but He anoints men, men of prayer.”

He also said, “It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God. These can mold a generation for God!”

It was John Wesley who said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of heaven on earth.”

If we get our eyes on ourselves, this series of messages will be of little use, but if we get our eyes on God, and we become more like Him, then this series can make a permanent difference in each one of our lives. I remember Leila sharing John 3:30 (NKJV) with me during her illness:

He must increase, but I must decrease.”

With tears in her eyes, she said, “Darling, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know the one thing I want is that none of the attention will be on me, but that people will say, ‘What a great God that woman has!’” I want God to be the main emphasis of this series about “The Man of God”.

The five aspects I will be dealing with are:
1. The Lifestyle of the Man of God
2. The Attitude of the Man of God
3. The Conviction of the Man of God
4. The Ambition of the Man of God
5. The Teamwork of Men of God

While this is certainly not comprehensive, I hope we will be able to discover what the basic characteristics of a man or woman of God are. If I sometimes come across rather strong about something, it’s not because I am trying to rebuke you, but probably because I sense that I need it so much. I wouldn’t dare to speak to you on this topic if I was supposed to have attained something. I am in a very slow process. I’ve always talked about the process of becoming a man or woman of God, and all I can say is that the process in Doug Sparks’ life is very slow.


A man of God is one who is becoming like Jesus Christ.

The Lifestyle of the Man of God

Now I am going to try to give you my testimony of forty-seven years in less than forty-seven minutes by sharing five key words that I see cropping up as I look over my life. But before I do that, let me begin with Genesis 32:10,

I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant.”

— Genesis 32:10 (NKJV)

As I look back at the Lord’s goodness over these years, I just have to say that I am not worthy of the least of the mercies and the grace and the truth which God has bestowed upon me in Christ.

1. Surrender

I was born in 1928. For one year, I really had it great. My father had a fur farm business. He had his own airplane and pilot, chauffeur and car, and estate. That was 1928.

Then came 1929. He became bankrupt and had difficulty with the authorities, so he disappeared. My mother took me and my sister, two and five respectively, and moved into the little town near the estate. There she found a little room on the third floor of the oldest building and started a beauty shop where you could get a shampoo and setwave for twenty-five cents. Wouldn’t that be great, ladies? You could get your hair fixed everyday if you wanted to walk up two flights of stairs to do it.

I saw my dad once or twice while I was a freshman in high school. Things went well for me there—football, basketball, track, captain of the basketball team and student body president by senior year. We had a little fad in our school among the fellows: if you could kiss a girl, you could put her name on a list. The fellows would try and find out who had the longest list. Some of you know Bob Glockner (we called him Gabby) – he was the champion at graduation, with over a hundred girls on his list.

After graduation, I went into the Navy and Gabby went into the Marines. Then Gabby began to write me of his conversion. I thought that the Marines must have been just a little too difficult for Gabby and he was escaping reality in religion. But when I met him in San Francisco, I found out he wasn’t having a difficult time at all. In fact, he was living at the YMCA, getting over a hundred dollars for subsistence, and all he had to do was play basketball for the West Coast Championship Marine team. Now I couldn’t figure out why Gabby was all wrapped up in religion, going to church and preaching down in the missions on Skid Row.

At that time I was going out with a girl at the University of California. I told her about the list and everything and asked, “Maybe you could help my friend out. Do you know a girl who could really give him a hard time?” “Oh yes, I know just the girl,” she said. So I got Gabby a blind date. I watched him like a hawk and I could not believe my eyes. She was just the right girl, but he didn’t tumble. And I realized, for the first time, that there had to be something real there.

Some weeks later, Gabby and I were alone and he said, “Doug, I don’t want to preach at you, I just want to show you what Jesus said.” Then he turned to John 3:3 (NKJV) and read,


Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

He continued, “Doug, you are my buddy, and I can’t judge you, whether you are born again or not, but I know that when we were in high school together and playing ball together and running around with the gals and teaching Sunday school together, I wasn’t born again. And you are my buddy and I don’t want to see you down there, shoveling coal for eternity.” The idea, simply, was that Gabby had found something that had transformed his life. He knew where he was going. He was in touch with God. God was real to him. God loved him. God was interested in him.

I went back to Treasure Island where I was in electronics school and had helped formed a club we called “The Guzzling Dozen”. We had a Captain’s Guzzler, a Chief Guzzler’s Mate, an MAA (Master of All Alcohols), and I was Guzzler of the Deck (for a very appropriate reason).

But that verse didn’t leave me: “Except a man be born again …” Questions began to go through my mind, “Am I born again? Is there a god? Does he love me? Does he want to transform my life? Is there life after death? What is the purpose of life?”

So I got a New Testament from the chaplain and hid it under my pillow. While the Guzzlers were getting ready for bed, I’d get in bed just a little earlier. I’d slip out that New Testament and crack it open when they weren’t looking, and I’d try to read and find out something.

But nothing happened. So I decided I’d try an experiment. I said, “God, if You are really interested in me, You show me how to be born again.” I had the weekend off and I turned the Guzzlers down for the normal weekend we used to have. As I got onto the highway and started to hitchhike, I said, “Now God, I don’t know where I am going, but if You love me and You have a plan for my life, show me how I must be born again.”

A car stopped and the driver asked, “Where are you going?” I looked at him and said, “Well, where are you going?”

“Pacific Row,” was his reply.  “Great! That’s where I am going.” So I went there. The next morning was a Sunday morning. I asked the hotel manager, “Is there a church I can go to?”

“There are twenty-three churches in this town – take your pick,” he said. I thought, “Well, I’m going to leave it up to God. I’m just going to walk around and see what happens.”

So I started early and walked around. No voice from the sky. No feeling. Church services were beginning and I thought, “Doug, this is the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life,” and I started to walk away from the town. I prayed silently as I walked along, “God, if there is a god, You show me what I must do to be born again and I promise You, no matter what it is, I’ll do it.”

And that was the first dynamic spiritual truth I discovered: that when I want to approach God, I have to approach Him in total, unconditional surrender. So that’s my first word: Surrender.

Click here for Part 2!