Steve Edington once told a story about a circus bear. Instead of walking on two legs, ride a bicycle, or other tricks, this bear sat and paced in a nine by nine foot cage. He was a showpiece, a marketing tool to attract crowds to the performances. Day after day, he walked nine feet one way, nine feet the other. For hours he would just lay down.

The circus fell on hard times and went bankrupt. No one was interested in a bear which could do no tricks so he was sold to a zoo. The zoo was rather progressive and provided animals with spaces that would resemble their natural habitats. Moats and rock formation kept the visitors at a safe distance. No bars were needed.

Introduced to his new environment, the bear soon repeated his behavior from his days in the circus cage. Free to wander in his expanded confines, the bear never ventured beyond the area of his old nine-by-nine square.

“The only bars left were the ones in his mind and spirit, which proved to be as real as the ones that had been around him.” wrote Edington.

What are the limitations that hem us in? Are they imposed upon us from the outside?

  • You’re no good.
  • You’ll never amount to anything.
  • I don’t know why I bother with you.

Or are they self-imposed?

  • I’ll never be able to accomplish that.
  • I’m scared.
  • Surely there’s somebody better than me.

Where do “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your paths” come in?


It’s time for the bear to quit being a prisoner. How about you?

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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