By Harry A. Osborne
At 10:35 am. on Monday morning, August 16. 1993, Robert Wayne La Coste left the pain and sickness of this temporal world to receive his reward. For the past week, I have alternated between laughter as I have remembered so many blessings he brought to my life and tears as I think how much I miss him. Bob was more tome than my sisters husbandhe was my brother, no in-law” attached. From the time he was dating Carolyn. our family received him as our own.
For the past two years as he continued to preach, Bob was on oxygen at all times. His problems with his lungs had started in childhood with having pneumonia in each of his first eight winters. At age eight, the lower lobe of one lung had to he removed. In addition to this problem, he also had bronchitiss from childhood, a disease which slowly destroys the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the body. The only solution to his condition was a double lung transplant. He was on the list awaiting that transplant when he passed away.
Over the last two months, Bob reminded the whole family that things would soon he much better one way or the other. He would either be able to resume his responsibilities in this life with new lungs or he would depart and he with the Lord. When the window of opportunity for the transplant passed, he calmly accepted death without fear or question. By his example, he preached a great sermon on faith in the face of death to all of those around him. In the last hours before a transplant became impossible, drugs could not ease his pain. He asked the family to sing spiritual songs and read Scripture. Carolyn remained by his side at all times singing untold numbers of hymns. The brethren at the Kleinwood congregation made a tape of songs for him. Unable to make a sound due to the ventilator tube down his throat, Bob mouthed the words. The thought of spiritual things calmed him when nothing else could.
My first thoughts of preaching the gospel came as a result of my admiration for Bob in his proclamation of the truth. As a teenager, Bob involved me in preaching trips to the Northwest with him. Much of Bob’s time in meetings was spent with small, struggling works in the West, Northwest, and into Canada. Many brethren from those places asked for his funeral to be taped because they could not come to it personally. Bob loved those brethren dearly, and that loved was reciprocated.
In 1 Timothy 4, the apostle instructed Timothy that “a good minister of Christ Jesus” must be “nourished in the words of faith, and of the good doctrine” (v. 6). He later adds,
Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that they progress may be manifest unto all. Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee (vv. 15-16).
By that measure, Bob was “a good minister of Christ Jesus.” He was diligent in the study and declaration of God’s will, giving himself wholly to such. He did not merely preach one standard while he lived by another. A constant inspection of his own life was a daily task for Bob. His teaching also underwent his constant scrutiny to make certain he spoke the truth which makes men free, rather than the cancerous message of error. Wherever Bob want, souls who would hear the truth were aided in their search for the salvation offered in Christ.
I remember going with Bob to his meetings both as a teenager and in my beginning years of preaching. It was very unusual if there were no baptism during the week. Those who heard Bob heard the truth and they knew he wanted them to obey it. His sincerity was readily apparent. His lessons did not delve into sociology, psychology or the fads of the day. They were simple, Bible-based lessons which plainly identified sin and its consequences while upholding the solution available through the gospel of Christ.
Bob also sought to lead souls to Christ by meeting the charge to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). He had debates with those from denominationalism and institutional churches. Bob understood the good done when the conflict between truth and error is brought into focus. In a debate with a United Pentecostal preacher in Sunnyside, Washington, that good was especially apparent. The Pentecostal moderator left the United Pentecostal Church on the last night of the debate. Several families from a liberal church left liberalism to take a stand for the truth saying, “This kind of teaching would never be allowed where we are.” In addition, the church as a whole was strengthened by seeing the power of truth.
In areas of the country where there was a loud call for compromise on divorce and remarriage, the “A.D. 70 doctrine,” and other errors, Bob raised his voice in defense of the truth. Instead of following the popular path by remaining silent on the issues, Bob boldly preached the truth on these and other subjects. He loved the souls of men and women too much to let them remain in the paths of sin and error due to ignorance. His influence in opposition to the current apostasy will be greatly missed.
When the time came that men would not endure the sound doctrine closer to home, Bob did not scratch itching ears, but continued to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). I was in a meeting where Bob preached not long ago and heard the sounds of compromise and error from several influential members. It was clear that those following the path of digression had no love for Bob and wanted him to leave. His kindness towards them despite their animosity was a testimony to his character. I will never forget the night during that meeting when he broke down in tears and we prayed for those who stridently opposed him and the Lord’s will. Bob truly lived the admonition of Romans 12:14-21.
If Bob had not been related to me, I would have still esteemed him “exceeding highly in love” for his work’s sake (1 Thess. 5:13). However, in addition to my love for him as a fellow-worker in the cause of Christ, he was my brother and my friend. We often spoke of our mutual love for one another and, in the words of the wise man, spoke of each other as “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). A deep and unceasing ache abides within my heart because I miss him so much. Though I am happy for his move to a better home, I find it more difficult than I ever imagined to be without him. Our family has been left with a huge void that he always filled with joy.
As Bob passed from this life, our family was by his side. Our love was with him throughout and continues until we meet him again before the eternal throne where there will be no more separations. As he drew his last breath, I tried to sing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” Though the words would not come out, that was and is the sentiment of my heart. Heaven is more real to me now than it was before. My desire to be there is increased. It is the hope given to us as Christians which makes our time of sorrow more bearable than that of the world (1 Thess. 4:3-18). I do not say, “Farewell,” to my brother, but only, “God be with you till we meet again. I love you, brother.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 18, p. 24-25
September 16, 1993