“I started this when I was so young and inexperienced. I made technical errors and business errors. I hired the wrong people. I trusted the wrong people.” This was part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement to CNN last night in apologizing for the data breach that has made headlines this week.
A few days ago, news broke that data firm Cambridge Analytica reportedly accessed information from about fifty million Facebook users without their knowledge. The controversy cost Facebook’s stock price to fall nearly $50 billion this week.
Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg pledged in a Facebook post to take steps to protect data and fix what he called a “breach of trust” between the social network and its users. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”
In other news, scientists say there is a small chance that an asteroid the size of the Empire State Building will collide with the Earth. Thursday, September 22, 2135 is the date when the object could strike us.
NASA says it could send up a nearly nine-ton “bulk impactor” to push the asteroid out of Earth’s orbit. Or it could use a nuclear device for the same purpose. The scheme is called the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response. The acronym is less subtle: HAMMER.
The good news is that the odds of the asteroid hitting us are about one in twenty-seven hundred. The bad news is that, according to NASA’s experts, there are ten thousand extraterrestrial objects headed toward Earth that could be unaccounted for.
The peril of unknown asteroids may seem ominous, but technological breaches are much more dangerous to the typical American. Just because we don’t see a threat makes it no less threatening.
We cannot anticipate or prevent suffering in this fallen world. But we can prepare for it.
One reason Christians suffer
Psalm 80 begins, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth” (v. 1).
Note the present tense: “You who lead Joseph. . . . You who are enthroned.” Even though the people have become an “object of contention for our neighbors” such that “our enemies laugh among themselves” (v. 6), God is still their shepherd.
Daniel was so godly that his enemies “could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (Daniel 6:4). But this holy man was nonetheless subjected to the lions’ den (vv. 16–23).
Joseph went through Potiphar’s prison on his way to Pharaoh’s palace (Genesis 39–41). Jeremiah had his pit of mud (Jeremiah 38:1–13). Paul had his imprisonments and persecutions almost beyond description (2 Corinthians 11:23–33). Jesus’ “beloved disciple” had his Patmos (John 13:23; Revelation 1:9).
Scripture is clear: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, my italics). As Paul told his fellow believers, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 NIV).
Godliness invites temptations and attacks from Satan: the more we seek to please Jesus, the more we threaten the enemy. We can choose to be ungodly to escape such persecution, but the consequences of sin are far worse than its supposed benefits.
Daniel’s enemies were devoured in the pit he escaped (Daniel 6:24). It is still true for all people at all times that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The momentary rewards of sin inevitably pale in comparison to their cost.
However, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
How to refuse temptation
Here’s my point: the time to decide whether we will choose godliness over sin is before temptation strikes.
Solomon urged his reader to “be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge” (Proverbs 5:1–2). Here’s why his advice was so urgent: “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (vv. 3–4).
Solomon wanted his reader to seek wisdom and choose discretion before he faced the “forbidden woman,” knowing that the longer we consider temptation, the stronger it grows. The closer we get to sin, the harder it is to resist.
It will never be easier to refuse temptation than it is right now.
The way to prepare for tomorrow’s hardships is to draw closer to Jesus today. Make the “Shepherd of Israel” your shepherd. Listen for his voice through Scripture and prayer. Ask his Spirit to help you obey what you know his will to be. Stay faithful to the last word you heard from him and open to the next.
Not only will you be prepared for the temptations and travails of this fallen world—you will be a light for those who are perishing in the darkness (John 12:35–36). Helen Keller: “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”
Let it begin with us.