What do mountain bikers, George of the Jungle, and leaders have in common?

In my last post on February 9, I wrote about how leaders can learn from mountain bikers how to “look down the trail.” Just as important is to keep your eyes on the trail, instead of what’s not on the trail. 

Last year on a group ride in Brown County, I was flying through a fast downhill section when I spotted a large tree just off the trail ahead of me. I thought to myself, “That’s a big tree. You don’t want to hit that tree. Better stay to the right of that tree … tree … tree”  WHAM! I hit the tree.  Fortunately the only thing damaged was my ego. As I dusted myself off and checked out my bike, I noticed plenty of path to the right of the tree. But that tree was like a magnet. I couldn’t steer away from it. Why? It goes back to an old adage:

“What you look at is where you’ll go.”

It’s true for biking, driving a car, dieting, or living a blameless life (see Psalm 101:2-3). It’s as true for me as for George of the Jungle: “Watch out for that tree!”

Mountain bike skills instructor Richard Kelly teaches riders to keep their eyes on the trail, not on features off the trail. “Fixation” occurs, he says, when riders do what I did and focus on a feature off the trail and end up hitting it. In a training video on International Mountain Bike‘s online magazine, Kelly encourages riders, “That tree’s not on the trail, so don’t even look at it! Focus on the trail instead and you’ll flow right past it.” Sounds like Kelly has been reading Proverbs:

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” (Proverbs 4:25, NIV). “Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust” (v. 27, The Message).

The lesson for us as leaders is obvious. There are lots of distractions that will take our eyes and mind off the path and away from the goals we’ve set. As a leader, we need to differentiate what is on the trail and what’s not. If it’s not on the trail, we shouldn’t even look at it, but keep our eyes straight ahead. How do you know what’s on the path? I think it starts with this:

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed” (Hebrews 12:2, The Message).

One more thing. Satan will throw up obstacles if you are on the right trail. But they are off the trail! Keep your eyes on the trail–stay focused on Christ and the path he has set out for you.

So, what “trees” are you presently coming up on? Where will you fix your eyes?

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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