By Joe R. Price
On August 16, 1993, Robert Wayne La Coste, evangelist with the Wonsley Drive church of Christ in Austin, TX, departed this life to be with his Lord. At the age of 44 years, Bob’s earthly tabernacle of flesh could no longer contain his spirit, and so he flew away (Psa. 90:10; Eccl. 12:7; 2 Cor. 5:1). He leaves behind his devoted wife Carolyn, and two sons, William Gary and Robert Timothy, whom he dearly loved. A memorial fund has been setup in his name, and tax-deductible contributions may be made out to the “Robert W. La Coste Memorial Fund,” and sent to Carolyn La Coste, 7300 South Ute Trail, Austin, TX 78729: or Dennis Scroggins, 8903 Jesse James Dr., Austin, TX 78748. Your contributions of financial assistance in memory of brother Bob La Coste would be most appreciated.
It was my privilege to have been associated with Bob La Coste for the past 19 years. He was my father in the faith, having taught me the gospel and baptized me into Christ during the summer of 1974. He was my fellow-laborer in the gospel of Christ, and I had the privilege on several occasions of working together with him in preaching the gospel. He was also my friend, having enriched my life with his kindness and caring in so many ways. He touched the lives of many people during his abbreviated life on this earth. All whose lives he touched are better today for having known him.
Bob La Coste died with the Christian’s hope of heaven. And, he also lived that hope. Just over one year ago, he wrote an extensive article in which he spoke about life and eternity. It reveals the faith of this good man and his interest in pleasing his Lord:
One day, all of us will lay our spiritual armour by and our race will have been run. One day we shall be reunited with the Redeemer and the redeemed of all ages. When this finally happens, eternity will not remember our infirmities and how we died. Eternity will only know how we handled life and how we lived (La Coste, “Living With Infirmity,” Guardian of Truth, July 16, 1992, p. 435).
It is appropriate for us to learn from and imitate the lives of fellow Christians. Timothy was urged to be an example to believers (I Tim. 4:12). Paul taught that we should imitate him and take note of others who walk according to the apostolic example (Phil. 3:17). The Hebrew writer tells us to remember those “that spoke unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). It is right and useful, then, to reflect at this time upon the life of this faithful soldier of the cross who has left behind a legacy of labor and devotion to the Lord and His cause. I know that Bob would say, “Look to Jesus, not me,” and that is as it should be (Heb. 12:1-2). Nonetheless, by considering the issue of his faith, we can imitate him even as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).
Bob La Coste lived in faith as a Christian. Nothing was more important to him than being right with his Lord. Consequently, he loved and obeyed the gospel plan of salvation, and then he gave himself to a life of learning from and following his Master the essence of a disciple of Christ (Jn. 8:31-32). Being a Christian was his life’s endeavor, not an occasional diversion. From his youth he strove to exemplify godliness to those with whom he associated (1 Tim. 4:12). As a result, many people today are stronger and more committed to obeying Christ be-cause of his influence in their lives.
Bob was proud to be a Christian. To be a child of God was to him the greatest privilege that could be bestowed (1 Jn. 3:1). His Christianity was not a cloak for self-indulgence, it was a badge of honor. Consequently, the characteristics of a true disciple were a part of his life things like diligence, faithfulness, steadfastness, courage and hope.
Bob understood the value of being a Christian. Like the man seeking goodly pearls who found and bought the “pearl of great price,” Bob willingly sacrificed all that he had in order to be a Christian. His constant exhortations to others was to press toward the goal of heaven, for he knew that God’s reward would be waiting there. Surely, we can learn to more carefully “walk by faith” as a result of the life of Bob La Coste.
Was Bob La Coste without sin? Of course not. But he set an example of devotion to family, of care for his fellow man and of humility before God and man which is worthy of imitation. On one occasion he wrote:
I would be a liar indeed if I said that I have always trusted God as I should, never felt sorry for myself and am the man one should look to as a perfect example of how to live with infirmity. Not hardly! I am a weak and sinful man who needs the mercy and grace of my God like everyone else. However, I have learned to trust him more, pray more, study more and live better all the way around because of his sufficient grace that is continually nigh (Ibid.).
Would to God that our Christian walk will mean as much to us as it did to our dear brother.
Bob La Coste loved to preach the gospel. For twenty-eight years Bob devoted his life to telling the old, old story. At the age of sixteen he already knew which direction his life would take him. That is when he held his first gospel meeting. His work as an evangelist took him to many parts of this country, including Texas, Missouri, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington, as well as Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He worked as the local evangelist for churches in Hereford, TX, Cooper, TX, Refugio, TX, Tompkinsville, KY, San Antonio, TX and Austin, TX.
Unquestionably, Bob loved the souls of men. His compassion for the lost and his sincerity in attempting to save the lost with the gospel are indelibly etched in my memory. These memories include being with Bob as we discussed the word of God with others. Without exception, his genuine concern for people came through. One could never question Bob’s honest caring for the spiritual well-being of others. I also remember this tenacity for the truth of the gospel. Some may have described Bob’s fervency in preaching as “harsh” or “arrogant,” but in reality, it was his zeal for Christ which compelled him to strain every fiber of his being so that others might know and obey the truth of Christ which he preached.
The divine charge of preaching which was given to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:1-5) was borne out in his life. Bob’s preaching was plain: “Preach the word” (v. 2). He believed that God’s word is plain and understandable. He knew that if people were to be saved from their sins they had to understand the gospel message. Therefore, Bob made it a point to be plain in his preaching. You did not have to wonder what Bob said after he said it. And to me, that is a great compliment to a gospel preacher. The sound he sent forth was clear and certain. He did not preach a “feel-good,” “positive mental attitude” sort of gospel, neither did he preach the opinions of men. He knew that the soul of the sinner is saved by the cleansing power of the blood of Christ, and so he plainly taught God’s plan of salvation whenever he had an opportunity to preach. Preachers of the gospel today would do well to follow his example of plainness and clarity as we preach.
Bob’s preaching was urgent: “Be urgent” (v. 2). Life, with its pain and its uncertainties had taught him the importance of never delaying to preach what needed to be preached. Even when his physical condition made it necessary for him to be on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, Bob preached the word. He took his oxygen with him into the pulpit. He took his oxygen with him as he traveled on gospel meetings. I saw him give himself breathing treatments thirty minutes before time to preach and then immediately after worship services were over just so he would have the strength to preach. When Bob did not have the strength to stand behind the pulpit, he used a stool beside it and continued to preach. His last gospel meeting was preached just three months before his death. Just a few months ago he wrote the following:
It is my earnest desire to return once again and preach in that part of the country (the state of Washington, jrp) the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. I’m confident I shall. With my chronic lung condition it’s a simple case of “have oxygen tank, will travel,” but rather than slowing down, I am speeding up! Time is of the essence (La Coste, “Preaching Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the State of Washington,” Guardian of Truth, June 3, 1993, p. 336).
Why such urgency? It would have been so easy for Bob to slow down or even stop preaching and everyone would have understood. But he could not. He would not. He used every ounce of strength he had to seek to persuade men and women to obey the gospel and be saved in Christ. What an example to follow as we consider the issue of his life.
Bob’s preaching was uncompromising: “In season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (v. 2). His love for truth and the souls of men caused him to train himself in the use of formal debate as a means of persuasion. And, Bob had several public debates with the opponents of truth. His willingness to take a stand for the truth and to stick by it brought its share of suffering to Bob’s life, just as the apostle said it would (2 Tim. 4:5). Some would not endure the sound doctrine preached by this servant of the cross. However, Bob preached on. He preached against the innovations of the past and the compromises of the presents. He called people back to the “old paths” (Jer. 6:16). I am sure that if Bob were here today he would encourage preachers of the gospel in the strongest terms possible to never, ever compromise the precious gospel of the Lord. Bob often quoted Galatians 1:8-9 as he urged men to heed the Lord’s warning against preaching and receiving a different gospel. What better example to follow than the one he set of preaching the gospel in plainness, urgency and purity? These are the lessons I have learned from the life and work of Bob La Coste, fellow-evangelist of the gospel.
The Lord gave an increase to Bob’s labor (1 Cor. 3:6). Throughout this land there are many today who are saved because of the work of Bob La Coste. This author is grateful to be counted among that number. His willingness to share the hope of Christ with the lost has resulted in many, many others sharing in that same hope and salvation. Bob often told me that it was his hope that he would live long enough to see his sons grown and faithful Christians. His oldest son, Bill, is grown, and the night before his father’s death, Bill obeyed the gospel of Christ. Although racked with pain and nearing death, I am told that a grin from ear to ear came to Bob’s face when he learned of his sons baptism into Christ, With Bob it was certainly true that “greater joy have! none than this) to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
Bob lived by faith in the face of physical trials. Bob had more than his share of physical ailments in this life, Since he was a small child, when continue bouts of pneumonia limited his breathing capacity, Bob struggled to breathe (making the most of the one and a half lungs which remained after surgery removed much of one in his eighth year). Asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions were a part of life for Bob, and they also became the eventual cause of his death. A few years ago, his life was nearly extinguished in a motorcycle accident, but the Lord was merciful and he recovered. Yet, through all of these trials, I never heard Bob complain about his lot in life (a lesson all of us can learn and apply!). Instead, I often heard him speak of Philippians 4:13, one of the truths of Gods word from which he drew comfort: “I can do all things in him that strengthened nm. What an influence we could have by approaching lifes trials in a similar manner (1 Pet.1 :6-9).
The apostle Paul was one of Bobs heroes. Bob learned from Paul to trust in the grace of God and to thereby share in the strength of God in spite of his physical weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The courage of faith with which he confronted the physical ordeals of his life has made countless others stronger in their own faith. I urge anyone who is struggling with an infirmity to read Bobs line article, “Living With infirmity” which appeared in the Guardian of Truth (July 16, 1992, pp. 432-435). It will certainly help to bolster your faith and anchor your hope in Christ Jesus.
(Write me, and I will be glad to send you a copy jrp). The faith of Bob La Coste in the face of physical trials and adversities is worthy of our imitation.
Bob La Coste lived his faith by being a friend to others. He truly exemplified Proverbs 17:17: /&friend loveth at all times; And a brother is born for adversity.” He gave himself to the principle of loving his neighbor as himself (Matt. 22:19).
His brand of friendship was not the self-serving, get- something-in-return approach many take when forming friendships. To him, being a friend meant doing whatever he could help, whenever that help was needed. It meant giving an encouraging word to one who was discouraged and praising a job well done. Oh, how we need more friends like that! My friendship with Bob reminds me of what Paul said of Timothy, For l have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state” (Phil. 2:20). Such a fricndship provides the person so blessed with companionship, security and strength (Eccl. 4:9-12). Many people counted Bob as a friend.
Bob leaves behind his wife, Carolyn, whom he loved very much. She stood beside him and supported him in all the years of his work and through all the difficulties of his physical ailments. Her loving and faithful devotion to her husband is an honor both to Bob and to her, Carolyn, may the Lord bless you with the strength you will need to sustain you in the days ahead,
Bob La Coste lived and died in hope. He is now at rest from the physical agonies he endured in this life. He has gone home to be with the Lord. We thank God for his life of faith and his work of service as we look forward to the time when we will never have to say good-bye again.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 18, p. 22-24
September 16, 1993