By Caitlin Chodakowsky

Against all odds

Chuck Norris and family
Chuck Norris and wife Gena O’Kelley arrive at a movie premier with their 11-year-old twins, Danilee (left) and Dakota, in Hollywood, California in 2012. (Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Image)

When people think of actor and martial arts legend Chuck Norris they think, "tough", "invincible", and "the epitome of manhood". Such descriptions are included among the various memes circulating the Internet:

"Chuck Norris once heard that nothing can kill him, so he tracked down nothing and killed it."

"Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice."

With these and so many other humorous 'facts' along this vein, many would not believe Chuck grew up as an extremely shy, non-athletic boy in poor rural Oklahoma with an alcoholic father who abandoned the family.

His heroes were Old West cowboy film stars such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.

"Growing up, not having a father around, you have to create your own image of a father, and that became the image of a father that I would like to have had," Chuck told CBN.com.

Chuck Norris jokes

Little did he know that in time he would become a six-time undefeated World Middleweight Karate Champion, star as the hero in more than 23 films and write and produce his own hit television series Walker, Texas Ranger.

Chuck's inspiration came when he was exposed to martial arts in Korea while serving in the Air Force.

"(I) was just completely taken with the physical ability of the martial artists and making my black belt," Chuck recalls.

Within eight years he achieved world recognition and holds the distinction of being the first man in the Western hemisphere to receive an eighth degree black belt grand master in Tae Kwon Do.

After winning the world karate championships he opened a successful chain of karate schools and Hollywood soon took note, casting him in his first feature film.

Soon Chuck was a box office success. He had money, fame and influence but deep down he was miserable.

He recalls his mother was always a solid rock for the family and never gave up on her children, despite the challenges they faced growing up.

Luck had
nothing to
do with it
- God did.
"She influenced me spiritually and instilled in me a sense of responsibility that carried over into my later adult life. She always told me 'God has plans for you,' and I didn't know what she meant at the time. I think I do now," he told bpnews.net.

"I gave my life to the Lord at 12. I was baptized at 12. Then my faith grew stronger. Later I got to go to a crusade for Billy Graham, (but) unfortunately a lot of times in the entertainment industry, sometimes you lose sight of what's really important in your life. I lost a marriage because of it."

The faith that he had growing up took a backseat to the life of fame and success he was living.

Every now and again the death of a loved one was enough to remind him that he had drifted away from God but it was soon forgotten with his drive to succeed in the entertainment industry.

"Finally, my best friend said, 'You have got to get your act together. You are really not a happy guy. There's a woman I want you to meet. I'm going to invite her to Dallas'," Chuck told CBN.com.

This woman, Gena, later became Chuck's second wife and together they eventually found their way back to living with Jesus as Lord over their lives.

In his book Against All Odds, Chuck openly shares how they lived together before they were married, something he says they knew was sin. It was a concerned pastor that led them to turn away from this sin and it served as the turning point in their lives and relationship.

"We did things that were definitely wrong. When you have the Holy Spirit reigning inside of you, you can't run. You cannot run," Gena shares.

"I didn't want to hide things in this book. There are a lot of things in the book, a lot of mistakes I made in my life that come out," Chuck adds.

Chuck Norris joke

The couple are able to candidly share their story publicly knowing that God has forgiven them both and they have turned away from the things they know are wrong in God's eyes.

God has also helped them through many tough circumstances, including the difficult birth of their twins.

"I had earned millions of dollars over my lifetime," he writes in his book. "I'd been a friend to several presidents, yet all the money in my bank account couldn't help me now.... There was only one person to whom I could turn."

It was Jesus Christ. The one who had been there throughout Chuck's life.

"It's amazing because people come up to me and say, 'Chuck, you're the luckiest guy in the world to be a world karate champion and a movie and TV star.' When they say this to me, I kind of smile because luck had nothing to do with it; God had everything to do with it."

No one is guaranteed tomorrow >>