Running for governor was never on Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s to-do list — but God had a different agenda.
“Mary (his wife) and I had become persuaded that God had asked us to get out of our comfort zone and to offer for governor,” Perdue told Liberty University students at Wednesday’s convocation.
For two years leading up to his decision, he’d been hearing that Christians should move beyond their comfort zones, and the message seemed like it was meant for him and his wife in a personal way. For awhile, they thought maybe God was calling them to the mission field, but soon it became clear that God was asking Perdue to dive further into politics.
Though he’d served as a state senator, odds were stacked against him when he vied for the office of governor in 2002. He was a Republican — and Georgia hadn’t elected a governor from his party in nearly 135 years — but he still felt a clear sense of direction from God.
“I was a long shot for governor,” he said, telling students that his opponent out-spent him by about 7-to-1. “It was an uphill battle.”
Despite the challenge, Perdue felt the peace that comes with obeying God.
“I felt as if — win or lose — I already had the victory in obedience to God, and the results were up to him,” said Perdue, who had ignored God’s direction before and learned from personal experience that it’s better to trust Him.
He suspected that God was offering him a big dose of humility.
“When you run statewide and you read all the things written about you, it’s kind of like taking your heart out and stomping that sucker flat,” said Perdue.
Nonetheless, he defeated Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes 52 to 46 percent in a three-way race and was inaugurated in January 2003.
Perdue, who has a background as a Sunday school teacher, used his story to draw parallels with the life of Daniel from the Old Testament. He emphasized that Daniel had purposed in his heart to obey God even when he was surrounded by a very different culture and under pressure to worship differently.
“It means making up your mind ahead of time that you’re not going to defile yourself or your God,” Perdue said of the word “purposed.”
No matter whether they run for governor or choose another field, Perdue said, students will someday need to make a choice about how they’ll reconcile their faith with their future duties.
“People are watching,” Perdue told everyone, encouraging them to live so that others will see their faith.
Though he didn’t mention it in his message, Perdue lived out his faith very publicly in his role of governor by praying for rain along with other lawmakers at the state capitol during a serious drought in 2007. He received some criticism for his prayer, but his faith remained strong.
Perdue told students that Daniel lived within the cultural system but was definitely apart from the system. He said being at Liberty University is a great step toward preparing to live that life of faith.
“This is a very unique place,” he said.