When one goes to a professional athletic event, the excitement of the crowd, the enthusiasm of the professional announcer, the dancers, music, and lights, and especially the world-class athletic ability of the greatest athletes in the world can all leave the spectator with a profound impression that they have witnessed something truly awesome. However, it's only the spectacle of it all that gives that impression. After all, is there any intrinsic value in placing a leather ball through a hoop, into a net, or over a line? It becomes meaningful to us only when we see it done by the best in the world in the best forums in the world.
The same can be said of much of what we value in Christendom. We have become so good at putting on an event called church, that worshippers can feel that they have been a part of something truly awesome, when, in fact, the world-class preachers, the dancers, music, lights, announcers, and singers can deceive us into believing that we have found or experienced something of eternal value, when at least some, or maybe at times even all of what was done was as empty and meaningless as dropping a leather ball through a metal hoop: something that the janitor could have done with a step ladder and with far less fanfare.
In speaking of one who seeks to mine the true hidden treasures of Christ, the scripture says the following:
"He breaks open a shaft away from people; In places forgotten by feet They hang far away from men; They swing to and fro" (Job 28:4 NKJV).
This is the work of the miner. He is a rugged and solitary individual, who works in darkness and without fanfare. This is the truly spiritual man or woman who seeks the hidden treasures of Christ in the place forgotten by the feet of the multitudes who throng the great forums of Christendom. The place forgotten is the place of prayer. He lives in the place that most eyes have never even seen. He cuts a shaft through flinty rock that most would never believe could be breached, and he has learned through discipline, faith, and personal experience that within lie hidden treasure of true and eternal value: "Its stones are the source of sapphires, and it contains gold dust" (Job 28:6).
"What is hidden he brings forth to light." However, most of what he mines is stored in his personal treasure chest to be shared with no one, or with only his most intimate friends. Some will be sold or traded for others to enjoy or for them to turn into items of utility for them or others. His most treasured jewels, the sapphires, the nuggets of gold or silver, the wonderful and beautiful formations of the rocks and gems, are truly appreciated only by him, or by those rare birds of his feather: those who have mined treasure of their own.
The mining shaft of secret prayer is spiritual business of real and eternal value, for it brings forth the treasures hidden from man for eternity past, and reveals the beauty of God's traits and his wisdom that lie beneath the outward Kingdom landscape that the eyes of all who are born of God freely enjoy. Only seeking prayer uncovers such treasure, and this is the kind of prayer that goes as far beyond "daily devotions" as gold mining goes beyond picking up a particularly pretty rock here and there as one travels the dusty path of daily life. This is full time occupation that chooses the man or woman, rather than the opposite. It is passion turned occupation, and the treasure is what drives, not the hope of profit from its commerce.
This is secret work. This is work done far away from the cheers of the people. This is work that is almost profaned by even calling it work. Yet for most, it is work that appears completely unreasonable in its severity and in the toll it exacts. To write or speak of this work, I must use poetic verse to appeal to the masses, for most are not searching for treasure as if their lives were for nothing else. For the few treasure hunters, the poetic verse will only serve to enflame the burning coals within the heart of God's treasure hunter. He or she will do what the rest of us have done in our desperate search for God. He or she will seek within our words signposts that will help point them to the treasure they currently seek, or their ears will perk at the possibility of the existence of a fabled treasure that unspoken words have sung to their hearts at one time or another. They will seek keys to their treasure map. They will seek those who have experimentally found treasures in God, and will quickly turn from those who only write or speak of such treasures, for they are not interested in concepts and theory, but in practical experience. Most are content to read of the fabled Gold of Ophir, but these want directions to Ophir. To put it plainly, most are content to read of God in their Bibles or to hear God preached from their pulpits, but these want to find God, and have already left all in their pursuit of Him, just as the treasure hunter has left job and family to seek treasure through distant and hostile lands.
They are in search of God, and the desperate cry of their heart is the tool that assaults the flinty rock as they dig the shaft of prayer. Prayer, so estranged from the modern Christian, is the vehicle by which one finds God. Prayer; hours-a-day prayer, soaking-in-God's-presence prayer, smiling-in-God's-face prayer, in-the-Holy-Ghost prayer, prayer that resembles the intimate embrace of a husband and wife more than the "saying of prayers" of which most are familiar, is the vehicle for uncovering the beauty and wonder of Jesus. I know of no other.
Hey! You miners! You who "dangle and sway" far from man! You may never preach to the jumping and shouting masses in the great forums of Christian entertainment. So be it. But, "let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me", says the Lord. One thing is needed, and you have chosen that good part, which will not be taken from you.