Where there’s a Will, there’s another Will. When Will West arrived at Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas in 1903, the records clerk was certain he’d seen him before. So the clerk pulled out this file photo of William West, who looked identical to Will West. The clerk, M.W. McClaughry, asked Will West if he’d ever been to the prison before. West said he hadn’t. They looked so identical and even shared the same name, but the two prisoners were actually different people and their remarkable case brought in the era of fingerprint identification.
Most people like Will have met several Williams. We often come across people who share our full names though the facial appearance may be different. One way to test the commonality of your name is to go search the Facebook. You’ll be surprised at the number of people bearing the same name with you. And we are often miffed to be taken for someone else who bears our names such that we seek to be different.
The campaign for self discovery and self branding is now the talk of the town. Everyone wants to create an identity, a niche. We all want to be unique especially as we now know that God gave each of us a distinct finger print. You must have heard statements like, “You are unique with an exceptional physique created through a special technique to accomplish a classic assignment in the midst of your colleagues.” That’s true and several people in a bid to have this uniqueness have either compounded or completely changed their names thinking they’ll be unique by adopting another name.
Some even named themselves after a public figure, a hero or celebrity. They erroneously believe that his or her fortune will follow them by bearing his or her name. They ignorantly neglect their own uniqueness in the pursuit of someone else’s. Others have adopted terrible nick names just because they want to stand out. While it may not be bad to change your name if you’re really convinced to do so, I want to give you what I consider a better way of finding your identity.
Come with me to the Book of Ezra. In the 6th verse of the 7th chapter is this statement, “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.”
There were several Ezras in Babylon at that time, I assumed. Perhaps there were a lot Ezras on the street where THIS EZRA lived. I opined that there were even Ezras in the lineage of this Ezra but there was this particular Ezra that wasn’t like the other Ezras. He had an identity. Identity is who or what somebody or something is. It is the qualities or characteristics that distinguish a thing(s) or person(s) from the others.
When the writer began to write about Ezra, he knew he could be confused with the other Ezras that people knew. It’s why he had to give such details about him from verses 1 to 5. Even then he realised his readers could yet be confused. A question kept bordering his mind, “Which of the Ezras are you talking about?” Verse 6 was his response to that confusion, “This Ezra.” He was pointing to a particular Ezra among the Ezras.
This simple illumination from Ezra should liberate anyone from the crisis of identity because you could be “This Kemi” among the Kemis. You could be “This Samson” among the Samsons. Ezra didn’t have to change his name before he became conspicuous among other Ezras. He simply created his own niche. He distinguished himself. It’s not about changing your name. It’s about finding your identity. Your name will change without if there is, first, a change within! What gives you a name is not the change of name but the change of your world through you.
Among the Ezras, this Ezra did extra things that gave him a hedge over them. Like the five wise virgins who took extra oil for their lamps, this Ezra went the extra mile. It’s why a book of the Bible is named after him today. All other Ezras ended up as mere statistical data. They were faceless and voiceless. They were submerged in the abyss of times, unknown and unheard. But this Ezra emerged and became prominent. The pertinent question then is how did Ezra emerge as “this Ezra”? How did he distinguish himself? I observed the following about this Ezra:
- HE WENT UP FROM BABYLON
Babylon was a land of captivity. Israel had been captured by Babylon and a lot of Israelites had been taken as captives. Ezra was actually a prisoner of war in that land. However, Ezra realized he wasn’t meant to live in captivity. His life began to take a new turn the day he took the decision to go out of Babylon to Jerusalem. He was no longer content with a life in incineration. His heart was towards his home. He would no longer live in bondage. While other Ezras sat still in captivity, “this Ezra went up from Babylon…” As a matter of fact, “…he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.” (Ezra 7:7-8).
This was the first step he took that distinguished him; it’s the first step we all must take in finding our true identity. We became captives to sin when our father Adam sinned. We were sold into slavery to sin. “Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die.” (Romans 5:12 CEV). The good news is we don’t have to remain in Babylon. Jesus Christ died as a propitiation for our sins. If you’ll accept Him today, you can begin your journey back home. You can’t afford to remain in bondage to sin. This piece is God’s hand reaching out to you to receive you back home. You need to decide today and break free from the viscous cycle of sin. You can’t afford to continue to live under the chains of lust, murder, adultery, lie, fornication, pornography and masturbation. Jesus came to set you free. Today is your day of salvation!
- HE DISCOVERED HIS ASSIGNMENT.
This Ezra didn’t just leave Babylon; he discovered what he was supposed to do. By default, he was supposed to emerge as a priest. He came from the lineage of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). But instead he discovered his unique gift and forfeited his privilege to be the next high priest. He was not going to use his hard earned certificate from the Levite Theological Seminary. He began to think out of the box. He wasn’t going to be a victim of circumstances; merely following the popular opinion or seeking a social proof for his convictions. He followed his calling to be a Scribe. He must have faced persecutions. He would also be denied of the daily remunerations of priests. How will he survive exploring an unpopular course? Nevertheless, Ezra responded to the call of destiny. He followed the lonely road and eventually emerged as that unique Ezra among the Ezras.
Ezra even went the extra mile. It’s why he was different. He wasn’t a generalist who specialises in all the laws. He chose a specific field – the Law of Moses. He could have decided to study Joshua and Judges too but he knew he couldn’t be jack of all trade who is the master of none. Friend, the path to finding your identity is discovering what specific assignment God has for you. What field will God want you to specialize in? It’s not trial and error; it’s about finding the occupation, profession or course that matches your latent gifts. Life is fulfilling the content of your destiny not making ends meet. We are not here to get but to give something to our world. It’s time we stopped living in bondage to our belly. It’s time we began to ask the critical question of how we can impact our world positively.
We should stop reacting to our environment, allowing whatever comes up next to determine the direction and quality of our lives. We must begin to tap into the tremendous powers and potentials within us. We must begin to think and pray differently. Why waste the talents and gifts God has given you because you need to eat? Why stick to a certificate at the expense of your purpose? The password to your true identity is identifying what you’re created to do and doing it. It’s not dressing or speaking like someone you regard as your idol. That would amount to idolatry and you’d end up repeating what already existed at the expense of your originality.
- HE WORKED VERY HARD
This Ezra was also distinguished because he worked better and harder than the rest. It’s the same secret that gave Paul an edge over the rest of the apostles even though he was a latecomer. “…I worked harder than all of them…” he said. Hard work is the extra that made Ezra who he became. He burnt the candles while others slept. He did something others did not do. He also did a little more of what others did. He stretched himself. He was discipline with food, sleep and the use of his time. How did I know this? It’s because the Scriptures say, he was an expert in the Law of Moses which the Lord, the God of Israel had given. The word translated as expert is the Hebrew word “maw-here” which means to be skilled, quick, diligent, well-practiced, and taught by use. Well instructed and having familiar knowledge of something. The King James translation says he was a ready Scribe. The word ready implies there is no emergency for Ezra when it comes to dealing with anything that has to do with the Law of Moses. He’s always ready even if you woke him up from sleep. He has mastered it. He’s an authority in his field.
Friend, I need to ask you at this point, are you an expert in your chosen field? Do you have a grasp of your profession or course? Are you ready in case you are summoned for an interview? The problem with most people is not unemployment but “unemployability”; they cannot defend the certificate they hold. It’s why you are lost in the midst of other pastors, other tailors, other teachers and other professionals like yours. There is nothing you’re doing differently. You are not adding anything to what already existed. You are simply doing what everybody is already doing. You cannot excel or become an expert except in something that exerts you. You must go the extra mile in your chosen field. That’s how to become “this Ezra.” I just hope you’ll be a little more committed to what you’re doing henceforth else you simply be living to make ends meet without making any difference.
- HE WAS A MAN OF CHARACTER
Ezra was a man of character. He balanced his expertise with a life of fidelity. He preaches what he practices. He knew his words would be devoid of power if they were not backed up with a life of integrity. The Scripture says, “Ezra was determined to study the LORD’S Teachings, LIVE BY THEM, and teach their rules and regulations in Israel” (Ezra 7:10GW). His life on the pulpit was consistent with his life in the public. The undoing of many of us today is failure in character. We have spurious way of life. Our life is not in consonance with our words. There is a disparity, a divide between what we say and what we do.
There are many experts who have questionable lifestyle. They are very good in their chosen field like Ezra but they have no credibility. He’s a medical doctor, an expert neurosurgeon but he’s also a womanizer. That’s the kind of persons we find today in virtually every field of human endeavor. It’s so scarce to find someone with a wholesome personality. Students cheat, teachers abuse their students, traders overcharge their customers, public servants take bribes, corporate individuals manipulate data and dupe their clients. You soon get disappointed in someone you’ve highly esteemed when you find out his other side. Most people have traded their integrity on the altar of pleasure and mammon. It’s why they have no identity or cannot retain it. Ministries, homes, governments, businesses, organizations and corporate bodies have crumbled on the premise of character flaws. It’s one thing to find our identity; it’s another to keep it. Character preserves our place in the scheme of things.
Friend, it is God’s will that you find your identity. He doesn’t want you to be lost in the midst of the multitude. It’s why you are so different even though you may resemble or bear exactly someone else’s name. It’s also why none of the over seven billion people in the world has the same finger print with you. It’s time you accepted the Lord Jesus and stop living in captivity to sin. It’s also time to discover your unique assignment on the earth. It’s time to repent from a life of indolence and be committed to your purpose. And with a stable character, you can be sure you’ll find your identity.
By: Olufemi Babalola