The Example of Earl West

When I was in college, I took a class on Restoration History. We had to buy two textbooks for the class – The Search for the Ancient Order, Volumes 1 & 2 by Earl Irvin West. Naturally, the course focused on the history, not the man who wrote the books. So initially I did not pay much attention to the author.

However, I stumbled across something interesting recently about Earl West. In June 1951, West was introduced as the new book reviewer for the Gospel Guardian. Notice a portion of his introduction:

We feel very fortunate in securing the services of brother Earl West of Indianapolis, Indiana, to write these reviews for us. Although only thirty-one years of age, brother West has already begun to assume a stature of real magnitude in the minds of those who value the truth and are familiar with its struggles through the years. His two volume history of the restoration movement (Search For the Ancient Order) is undoubtedly the best and most comprehensive that has been written in that field. We believe no young man among us (and very few old men) can speak with more certain knowledge concerning the trials and trends, the toils and triumphs of our fathers in the gospel than can brother West. Possessed of a calm and deliberate judgment, he writes with the detached objectiveness of a historian, but combines with it the warm sympathy of a devoted and faithful friend. In his writings, the restoration leaders are human beings, not merely names in a book.” (Gospel Guardian, Volume 3, Number 8, June 21, 1951)

Those two big textbooks I had for a college class had both been written by the time the author was just thirty-one years old. It got me thinking again, as I have thought often lately, of how sad it is for young Christian men to waste so much time on worthless things (such as video games, movies, the internet, etc.). There is nothing wrong with occasional recreation and wholesome entertainment. But there is something wrong with wasting the early years of adulthood through a lack of diligence, goals, and proper priorities.

The prophet said, “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). We might naturally expect that knowledge and wisdom come with age, and to some degree this is true. But knowledge and wisdom come through diligent effort, not by age alone.

So for my fellow young Christian men out there, I encourage you to get to work and make the most of your time (Ephesians 5:16). Yes, you can have enjoyment in life, but not at the expense of growth and preparation for the future. The wise man wrote, “Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood… Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

You don’t have to write history books like Earl West. But whatever it is that you desire to do (preaching, teaching, writing, even doing secular work that will allow you to provide for your own and help others), start working hard at it while you are young. The wise man said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Don’t wait until you’re thirty-five or forty to start doing this.

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