Author Archives: Mark Wilbanks

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.

Making Sense of Suffering

First of all, making sense of suffering is an almost impossible task. The tragedies that the author of It is Well with My Soul, a hymn that has comforted countless grief-stricken, heart-broken people, are almost incalculable. Horatio Spafford lost so much in a short span of time that it would have been quite understandable if he had given in to bitterness and fury. How did he cling to faith in the midst of such pain?

Most of us have known the wrenching devastation of grief and suffering. Platitudes don’t help. It would be better if those who try to explain our misery would just remain silent. When there are no answers, we don’t need someone to try to give them to us.

Where do we turn? Where is the God who promises protection and provision for His children? How can God claim that “never again will you fear any harm” and be “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:15, 17)? How can a loving God allow so much suffering?

Scotty Smith, founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, wrote a wonderful book, Objects of His Affection. In the eighth chapter of the book, he offered his thoughts on the love of suffering. The love of suffering? Whose love? Can we really believe that God can love us through suffering? Can’t He just take our suffering away or keep it from happening altogether? Can there possibly be a purpose in our suffering?

We draw close to Holy Week, the week of the passion of Jesus. Smith noted that God has responded to the suffering of His world through His Son. Jesus Himself spoke of His purpose in coming into our world. After His encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save those like him who are lost” (Luke 19:10). Mark’s gospel recorded these words of the Lord: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Smith wrote: “To desire the saving of many lives over the preservation of one’s own life is the way of the cross. It is the saving of many lives that defines the suffering of Jesus.” It is ultimately the suffering of Jesus that can help us gain a better perspective. “It is the suffering of Jesus that answers our cry for justice in the face of evil, suffering, and injustice. And it is the suffering Jesus who knows how to console us until the promised day of vindication and consummation of our redemption.”

“The Way of the Cross Leads Home” is not just some trite religiosity. It is a life view. It is a way of facing the tragedy and pain with hope that sin, evil, and death are not the end of the trail. The cross is our symbol of what we mean to the Father. The cross is His statement that nothing would prevent the ultimate destruction of that which seeks to destroy us. Even through a veil of tears, we continue to be a people of faith, trust, and love.



Creativity is a wonderful thing. We see it everywhere. It shows up in some interesting places … like when parents come up with excuses for their kids:

“Please excuse Josh for being absent. I forgot to wake him up and I did not find him until I started making the beds — by then it was too late for him to go to school.”

“John didn’t come to school yesterday because he was feeling like he was going to be sick. Thankfully, he wasn’t!”

“Please excuse Janet’s absence from school. It was Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Since I don’t have a job, I made her stay home and do housework.”

“Please excuse Ricky from school yesterday. He spilled gasoline on his stomach and I was afraid he might explode.”

“Please excuse Mary for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch and when we found it on Monday, we thought it was Sunday.”

Excuse is defined as an attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); to seek to defend or justify.

We’ve all done it. We have tried to excuse ourselves for something we have or haven’t done. We would like to justify ourselves or simply get off the hook in an embarrassing or an uncomfortable situation.

Eve had an excuse: It was the serpent’s fault. Adam had an excuse: It was Eve’s fault.

Somebody has to take the fall (pun intended). One of the marks of maturity is when we own our thoughts, words, and deeds. We live in a shaming/blaming society where it seems to get easier to point to someone or something else.

My mom, and probably yours, used to say that when you point your finger at someone else, you still have four fingers pointed back to you. Lord, help us to take responsibility for our own lives!


Paul Harvey, loved for his heartwarming tales and unique style, told this story: “One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the floundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something hard; possibly a rock protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. ‘If I can just hang on until help comes,’ he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.”

This Sunday, the featured hymn was written by Lydia Baxter, a woman who was invalid for much of her life. “Take the Name of Jesus with You” is a testimony of courage in the face of suffering and difficulty. During the great Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns in the late 19th century, the song with lyrics by Lydia Baxter and tune by William Doane was popular with the great crowds.

The human condition is often one that affords us opportunity to rise above our circumstances. Paul wrote, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” The key is found in those two words: through Christ. The One who displayed the greatest courage in history offers His presence and power to us daily. When we appropriate what Christ gives, we can indeed take the name of Jesus wherever we go.

He should’ve looked up

When my dad was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, he had a friend who was asked to officiate at his first funeral. The young pastor was understandably nervous and sought help and advice from his more seasoned colleagues. One particularly helpful classmate lent him his minister’s manual that contained suggested readings and comments for such an occasion. The service at the church went well. After arriving at the cemetery, the young minister took the customary position at the back of the hearse and began leading the procession toward the grave. He was so intent on reading the right words in the right tone of voice that he forgot something. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …” then he walked into the hole. He should’ve looked up.

Are there times when we are so focused on things that we don’t pay attention as we should? Distracted driving is a huge and sometimes tragic problem. I’ve seen people so absorbed in their phones that they walk into wall or poles or other people. They should’ve looked up.

We can find ourselves so consumed by the minutia of life that we give in to worries and cares that rob us of the vitality God desires for us. The psalmist spoke about this: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”

Here are a few takeaways:

  • We could all use some help from time to time
  • The Person to whom we can turn is the One who created all of life, including our own
  • He promises to protect us
  • He is paying attention
  • We should look up

His eye is on the sparrow

“What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 120:29,30)

“Mrs. Civilla Martin, author of this gospel hymn text, tells of a visit in 1904 to a bedridden Christian friend. Mrs. Martin asked the woman if she ever got discouraged because of her physical condition. Her friend responded quickly: ‘Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me.’”

What song would you write about your response to the circumstances of your life? With much to complain about or to grieve over or to be terrified by, it might seem that our lyrics might display our disenchantment or disgust or anxiety. Or we could live in trust and faith …

God said to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged . For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

David said to Goliath: “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of Israel. This is the Lord’s battle and He will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

Nehemiah said to the residents of Jerusalem: “Don’t’ be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Paul said to the church at Rome: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky about or in the earth below – indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

Jesus said to His disciples: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

John Henry Howett wrote: “Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we give wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength.”

Civilla Martin wrote: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He’s watches me.”

What song will you sing?

Missed Opportunities

People write letters to advice columnists that can be heart-breaking, confusing, heart-warming, or … stupid:

“Dear Abby, while I was eating lunch the other day, I saw the image of Abraham Lincoln on one of my potato chips. I got so excited, thinking about how I might be able to share this wonderful news (and how much money I could make), I popped the chip in my mouth before I could stop myself and ate it. Is there anything I can do about this?

I don’t know how the columnist answered, but I’ve tried to come up with several appropriate responses but none seem very dignified:

  • Buy more chips, maybe there’s a presidential series.
  • Quit eating chips, there’s too much salt and it may be affecting your brain
  • Have your stomach pumped and have some glue nearby
  • Sift through your …. No, that’s gross
  • It’s too late so move on
  • Have someone take all of your electronic devices away so you cannot communicate again ever

When I think of missed opportunities, this bozo is not what I had in mind. I think of those moments when I could have said the right word … or when I did say the wrong word; when I did the right thing or when I did the wrong thing. I think of that moment when I could have noticed God at work but was too busy, distracted, or clueless. I think of when the prompting of the Holy Spirit was ignored and a divine appointment was missed.

It is wondrous when we pay attention, when we actively listen, when we slow down and open our eyes and ears and hearts. Today you and I will have opportunities. I hope we don’t miss them!

Hey, look at that cloud. Doesn’t that look just like Abraham Linc … Sorry.



Can you top that?

Kim and I went to see illusionist David Copperfield years ago. In a career that has spanned over 40 years, his illusions have included making a Learjet disappear, escaping from Alcatraz, levitating over the Grand Canyon, and making the Statue of Liberty vanish. He is the best-known and most commercially successful magician in history. He even owns a chain of islands in the Bahamas!

The challenge for people like Copperfield is that the next illusion has to be better than the last one. He has to be more sensational. He has to cause consternation at higher levels than ever before. He wants to go beyond “How did he do that?”

Our featured song this week was written by George Beverly Shea, the man best known for his singing at Billy Graham crusades for many years. The text for the worship service is Psalm 8. Both Scripture and song extol the magnificence of the Creator – the One who brought the universe into being and breathed life into humans.

“There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder of sunrise I see;

But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me.”

“O Lord, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!”

The songwriter and the psalmist knew that God didn’t have to top anything. He didn’t have to come up with a new trick. As our knowledge of the universe expands, we realize more and more that there is no end to the wonder of God’s creation. As we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we realize we will never fully explore the depths of His love for us.

Oh, the wonder of it all!