Joshua 6 tells the story of the walls of Jericho coming down. The story is miraculous in many ways. Taking a fortified city was always a challenge, usually ending in more casualties for the attacking force due to the difficulty of taking a fortified position. The Israelites follow the instruction of Joshua and take the city of Jericho:
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city… So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the awall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)
The point made here as well as other places in the scriptures is that if you want the Lord’s help, you need to do things His way. Joshua followed the instructions the Lord gave him and the children of Israel were obedient to Joshua’s instruction, and miracles followed their faithful obedience. Our students are much like the army in the book of Joshua. They face obstacles that they must overcome. I asked this question in class: how are you like the children of Israel in this story? What walls of Jericho do you face? Students had a variety of responses.
One of the central messages in the book of Joshua is that we can do more with our lives with the Lord’s help than trying to do things on our own. Achan (Joshua 7) illustrates this idea as well, using a negative example. When Elder Dallin H. Oaks was president of BYU he shared the following:
Challenges Coming from the Lord’s Servants
Winston Churchill spoke of the sharp agate points upon which the ponderous balance of destiny turns. Every one of us has in our own lives those sharp agate points upon which the ponderous balance of our destinies turn. Thirteen years ago, my stake president, John K. Edmunds, called me to meet him for lunch in a downtown Chicago restaurant. (We were both practicing law in that city at the time.) I was then a counselor in the Sunday School superintendency of one of the wards in his stake. He called me to a stake mission and to serve as a counselor in the stake mission presidency. At that time, I was working all day and every evening of the week and all day Saturday–excluding Sunday, as has always been my practice. I was working morning, noon, and night six days a week on some very taxing assignments for the law firm that employed me. He called me on a stake mission and told me—as was his wont, perfectly unyielding, without any compromise–that I would be expected to give forty hours of proselyting time per month in addition to attending meetings, bringing investigators to church, and doing the gospel study I would need to qualify myself as a stake missionary. I said to myself at that time that this was a turning point in my life; this was a test of my faith. Would I have the faith necessary to accept that position in view of the requirements of my employment? Even at that time, but more surely as I have looked back on it, I could recognize this as one of those sharp agate points that Churchill identified. Fortunately for me I mustered the faith, accepted the call, and said to my president, “If the Lord wants me to serve in that position–and I do honor the calling as coming from the Lord through his servant–he will make it possible for me to do it. When do you want me to start?”
He said, “I have an appointment I’d like you to keep tonight.”
I got my affairs in order and began that evening. Effective with that calling to a stake mission, I rarely ever worked after five o’clock again in the remaining course of my law practice, and still I realized greater success than I had ever realized by any measure that a young man could choose for success in his chosen profession. The Lord made it up to me in countless ways that I have no time and indeed no ability to particularize for you, but I can simply tell you that my faith was rewarded in every possible way.
More important to me, as I look back, is the certainty with which I can see that this calling to a stake mission changed the direction of my life and set me on a course that brought me here in measurable, deliberate, and direct steps to stand before you today. As I began to do the work of that missionary calling, I began to reevaluate the course on which I had set myself professionally, and I began to think about whether I wanted to spend the rest of my life in that particular law practice. Six months later, when I received a renewed offer of a position in law teaching, I accepted it. I would never have accepted that position if it had not been for my calling to a stake mission. That calling also offered me an opportunity to grow in faith and devotion and loyalty to the leadership of the Church. In every way I can measure it was a turning point in my life.
We have these sharp agate points. They may turn us for the better; they may turn us for the worse. The only thing you can be sure of is that, if you do what is right and make your decision prayerfully, you will make the right decision and will be able to look back on it and say, “That was a good decision in terms of the eternal course I pursue.” (The Blessing of Commandments, Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Devotional Address, September 10, 1974.) See also: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6075