Starting Over: The Lifestyle of the Man of God — Part 2

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Starting Over: The Lifestyle of the Man of God — Part 2

Posted on 27 Jun 2024

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

Click here for Part 1

2. Trust

You know what happened? A little girl came running up to me and said, “Sailor, aren’t you going to church?”

I said, “But where is there a good church to go to?” She pointed down a little road. “Oh, there’s a good Church.”

It was in that church that Sunday that I heard the visiting evangelist and I came to Christ.

As he preached, for the first time, I realized that Christ had died for me. And I discovered the second dynamic spiritual truth: Trust. Trust in Christ.

We have to approach God in total, unconditional surrender.

3. Obedience

But the preacher wanted people to come forward. I sat there and said to myself, “Not me — a sailor — going up there at the beck and call of an emotional preacher.”

Then I thought of the little girl and the promise that I had made, and I decided, “Yes, I’ll go up.”

Then some little children came forward and I thought, “Oh no, not me going up there with little children.”

Then you know what happened?

A verse of Scripture came to mind. I don’t know where it came from – maybe one night as I was reading the New Testament, maybe in Sunday school as a kid – but it came as though I had memorized it word perfect:

Then Jesus brought forth a little child and He put
him in the midst of them and said to them, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

— Matthew 18:2-3


Then I realized the third dynamic truth: Obedience.

So I went forward and I followed Christ.

4. Transmission

Some months later, I met Bob Schaeffer at Treasure Island and Bob got me into the Word. That was when I discovered something as a young Christian: that someone can teach you a method and all the reasons to do something, but if it’s not living and vital in their life, it doesn’t get through.

But Bob transmitted a love for the Word of God, a reverence for the Word of God, a thirst for the Word of God. That wasn’t taught to me, I caught it. And it’s been with me all these twenty-eight years. I owe to Bob Schaeffer one of the greatest debts any Christian can owe to another Christian, for transmitting to me a love and reverence and thirst for the Word.

Then after some six months of being in the basics, I seemed to reach a plateau. My first love for Christ had gone and I seemed to be wrapped up in a system, instead of with a Savior. I secretly wondered, “How am I going to get out of this?”

Then Lorne Sanny came and spoke in Oakland. Five little words: That I may know Him. There was something real there. There was something transmitted. I sensed that here was a man who had one goal in life—to know Christ— and he knew Him. 

All of a sudden, things came back into focus: the basics are merely means to seek and know and experience Christ.

Then I got out of the Navy and went to college, where I met another Navigator, Don Rosenburger, who transmitted something to me. For two years, I had been trying to lead people to Christ and disciple them, but no one seemed to mature. I had the knowledge and the methods, but something else was transmitted from Don’s life to mine: a vision, a heart for people.

The verse that Don lived was Colossians 1:28-29 (J.B. Phillips New Testament):


So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about Him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I’m working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. 

Don got us involved in evangelism, and his life and his enthusiasm transmitted a vision to me, and to Leroy, and to Scotty and to a lot of other men. So there is another word here: Transmission.

What are we passing on to others? Is it methods? Is it knowledge? Or is it life?

Surrender, Trust, Obey (and see God's work) 

Then I went to a seminar on “World Vision” in Hume Lake where Dawson Trotman was preaching. Daws asked us to take half a day alone with the Lord. I didn’t know how to spend half a day alone with the Lord, but I dutifully took up the bagged lunch and my Bible and walked out into the hills, sat down and wondered what I was supposed to do.

There was one thing that I had been fighting for two years: that was to be a missionary. I loved the collegiate ministry but I didn’t like the idea of being a missionary. I just liked to serve the Lord in the good old USA. The good old affluent USA.

Then God began to speak to me because something had been transmitted to me in that seminar: world vision and the Great Commission. I wrestled with God for most of the afternoon.

Finally I said, “Lord, I am available to go anywhere You want to send me, to do anything You want me to do. I’m willing to shine shoes; I’m willing to die in some obscure jungle village; I’m willing to hazard my life for Christ. I’m available.” So I came to a place of surrender again—to the Great Commission.

What are we passing on to others? 
Is it methods? Is it knowledge?
Or is it life? 


In just a few months, Daws asked me if I would go to Formosa (Taiwan). I really battled that. I said, “Lord, I am only twenty-two years old. I have only been a Christian a little over three years. I am not prepared.” And I remember wrestling with God at about two or three in the morning, saying, “Yes, Lord, I have surrendered, but it’s not the right time. I am not ready.”

Then Jeremiah 1:6-7 jumped out of the Bible at me:

Then said I: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.”


I couldn’t argue with God anymore. I just had to surrender and trust.

In just a few more months, I was on my way, on a slow boat to Formosa with three hundred dollars, two suitcases, and twenty-five dollars a month pledged.

The first months, my only equipment was my two suitcases, an air mattress and a mosquito net. I lived in a small little room and slept on the floor. Obedience.

But there was a great harvest in Formosa. We were getting five to ten thousand decisions a month and my job was to follow them up. The only ministry I  had ever had before this was following up six fellows and girls I had led to Christ in the university. So we set up a correspondence course.

Dawson’s faith had been transmitted to me and he used to use Jeremiah 33:3
NKJV all the time:

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

So as I prayed about the ministry in Formosa, I began to say, “Lord, help me get 100,000 people studying the Bible and memorizing it.”

I remember being foolish enough to share that little prayer request with one missionary I was with and getting a very stern rebuke. But after five years, there were 200,000 studying the Word.

I was in Formosa for five years but I realized within a year that all these terrific statistics and these multiplying correspondence students were not multiplying disciples. I found out one thing: that you do not produce multiplying disciples en masse. It must be done with the personal life touch, transmitting, as in 2 Timothy 2:2. It took me a year to recruit some who were committed to discipling and three years to train them.

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to
reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

— 2 Timothy 2:2


Roy Robertson used to come visit me and this is what he transmitted to me: faith. When we prayed, Asia became small and God became big.

I enjoyed going on those walks with Roy when we’d just pray together. So I began to have a date with the Lord. One night a week, I would just go out by myself and start praying. I remember praying, “Lord, help me bring the Gospel to every home on the island of Taiwan. Lord, give me a ministry in spreading the word of God throughout communist China.”

Those seemed like dreams to me. But God had said,

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. 

Twelve years later when I visited Taiwan, Timothy Jung, one of the Chinese that I had discipled, was directing a ministry which had brought tracts and Gospel portions to every home on the island of Taiwan not only once or twice, but three times.

And Johnny Lim, one of the fellows who had come to Christ through our student ministry, and whom we had discipled, was in Okinawa in charge of the broadcasting program into communist China, which broadcast the Word of God and the Gospel eight hours a day throughout the length and breadth of communist China.

Now, how big are your prayers for the world and for the people that you are training? Do we really claim Isaiah 60:22, 


A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time.


When we prayed, Asia became small and God became big.


Pray as big as you can. I also learnt something else: not so much to pray big things for myself, but to pray big things for others. 

Surrender, Trust, Obey (and see God's work) 

After a term in Glen Eyrie (the international headquarters of The Navigators) for two years as overseas coordinator, my next assignment was to Europe.

In Formosa, I had learnt to surrender and trust God for big things, to obey and see God work in a mighty way. In Europe, God taught me something a little different. I was to surrender and trust God, but to wait for Him to work.

The first year I was in Europe, the Lord gave me Isaiah 54:1-3
NKJV (I quote here only verse 1):

"Sing, O barren, You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate,
Than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.


God wanted me to sing about the fruit that He was going to give while the staff and I experienced barrenness, and the shame and the frustration of barrenness. Some of you may not know what that is like, but those who go into a new country and a new culture often have to spend years working before they see any fruit at all.

And God was saying, “Doug, will you sing?” I didn’t learn that lesson until later.

But He also showed me Hebrew 6:12

That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.


So we had to have diligence, faith and patience for eight years till we had recruited and trained some non-Americans.

Then Isaiah 54:2 NKJV came to pass:

Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. 

All of a sudden, the work began to move and university students were coming to Christ. They were being discipled and raised up as leaders of disciples, coming on the staff — and the work began to flourish.

It was then that we began to see Isaiah 54:3
NKJV come forth:

For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.

I want to share how the work in Europe has grown over the last four years, and how God has faithfully fulfilled His promises.

In 1971 we had 111 on our staff; in 1974, 221.
In 1971 we sent out 3 European missionaries; in 1974, 30.
In 1971 we were in 10 countries; in 1974, 15.
In 1971 our total budget was $919,000; this year, it is $2,140,000.
In 1971 the national income (non-American money) was $367,000; this year, we estimate it will be $ 1,200,000. Our income is 40% more than what it was last year, in spite of the recession and financial pressure.

There are other exciting things. We are penetrating countries in Eastern Europe, even Russia. God is blessing, even in those difficult places.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,

Because of Your truth.

— Psalm 115:1


Stay tuned for Part 3!