While Paul and Barnabas have been on their journey, the apostles who remain in Jerusalem have been working on establishing contact with their brothers and sisters in the faith who had to flee the city when Paul was hunting them down for the High Priest. They have scattered all over the place, and are now facing some very difficult circumstances. It’s hard enough to be away from loved ones, trying to re-establish themselves in new homes and find new means of earning their living, but it seems that no matter where they go or what they do, there are always people out to get them. Most of the time, it is the Jews who are against them, but often it is Gentiles as well. The apostles have sent people they trust to go and seek out their brothers and sisters and bring back word of their whereabouts and how they are doing in their new lives. The reports coming in are not pleasant. Everyone everywhere is suffering, and they all long to go back to the early days of their faith, when they all lived together in harmony in Jerusalem. But even if that was possible, many of them could not afford to make another move like that. What troubles the apostles even more is hearing that the majority of the scattered believers have grown stagnant, or at least passive, in their faith. They still worship Jesus as their savior, but they are not actively living out their faith by doing good for others. Some are tired of trying but not getting anywhere. Others are punished for the good they try to do, and so they have stopped out of fear. The apostles, disturbed by all the news, meet together to pray and discuss their next move. “They have endured a lot, but I’m sure there is more to come, for all of us. But Jesus told us this would happen, and that the way we get through these ordeals will be like gold being refined in a furnace. Every one of them will shape us into someone better and bring us closer to Jesus,” Peter remarks. “We need to encourage them. Should we send out delegations to work with them?” asks Nathaniel. “I’d like to write and circulate a letter first,” James, Jesus’ half-brother, speaks up. “By the time we assemble delegations and get them to where they are needed, things may have grown much worse. But a letter can be written, copied several times, and delivered fairly quickly. This way, we can give them news and encourage them in their faith.” Everyone likes the idea, and after praying about it, it is decided that James should follow through with his plan. He hurries off to find a scribe to help him. “I’d like to dictate a letter for you to write. It will have to be copied several times, because we will be sending it to our brothers and sisters who have been scattered abroad, to encourage them in their faith. Are you busy now? Can you help me start right away?” James says to his friend. “I’m ready, go ahead whenever you’re ready,” his friend replies. James prays again, “Father, please let Your Holy Spirit speak through me the words that You want in this letter.” He looks up and nods, ready to begin. The scribe sits poised over a fresh wax tablet, a stylus in his hand. “I, James, a servant of our Messiah, Jesus, and His Father, God, send greetings to our brothers and sisters in the twelve tribes of Israel who are scattered abroad. My brothers and sisters, I have heard of your troubles and want to encourage you. Please, whenever you find yourself going through times of trial, think of them as joyous occasions. You know that everything that comes to you is an exercise to strengthen your faith, and if you stand strong through to the end of your trials on this earth, Jesus’ work in you will be complete. It is as if you are only part of who you will eventually be, but after going through the fire many times, you will finally be a whole person, needing nothing else to complete you. Whoever feels that he or she is in need of a better understanding of the faith that we share, and how to go about living it, need only ask God. He will joyfully give us what we ask if it is asked in Jesus Name and in His will. But when you ask God, ask with a faithful heart, not doubting that God will provide the understanding you seek. Because when you doubt, you are like a wave in the ocean blown and tossed by the wind. You are too easily swayed by outside forces, and your mind can be changed just as easily. You must firmly believe with your whole heart that you will receive God’s answer to your prayer, otherwise your doubting heart will keep the answer from you.