A Battle of Wills

A game of chess? Yes; in its own bovine sort of way. Something I’ve always enjoyed is watching cattle test one another. Starting when they’re just calves, cows engage in what I’m told is “Bulling”; a game of strength and strategy. What starts out by placing their heads against one another often turns into a battle of wills, to see who is more dominant. The amazing lesson I gained from watching my yearlings showed how similar all of God’s creatures can be.

Taken one evening while doing rounds, “Lorenzo” and “Rocky” (pictured above) had been grazing and playing all day long. After all, it’s what yearlings (think teenagers in human terms) do. Born within just a week of one another, they are both around 800 pounds and of similar stature. On this late winter day, it appears these two steers bulled one another over a patch of early clover. Watching them bulling one another reminded me of the internal struggle we face every day as our spiritual nature battles with our human nature.

When cows bull one another, the bigger and stronger of the two wins, but that can change. What I’ve discovered is that the winner isn’t always decided by the biggest and strongest, but the most cunning or perceptive sometimes. With the two knuckleheads pictured above, the edge (this time) went to “Rocky.” Not because he had superior strength, but because he had, perhaps by happenstance, superior intellect.

The object of bulling among cows (I think) is to see who is most dominant. The winner is declared by the surrender of their opponent. This often happens, as depicted in this timely photo, by pinning the opponent’s head to the ground. After a few seconds of being forced into a submissive position, the loser gives up and walks away.

The same thing happens in us. The Apostle Paul wrote of the constant battle we have with our sinful human spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit in Romans 7 and 8. This battle of wills (our human free will and God’s will for us) is best explained in Ephesians 6:12; For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

So how did “Rocky” get the advantage and the victory over “Lorenzo”? Watching them bulling each other for 10 minutes, it was very much a draw. After tearing up the soft ground with their hooves, neither of them seemed to have an advantage. Then, “Rocky” did something most uncharacteristic for yearling steers. He engaged in a fierce struggle with his cousin “Lorenzo” and during the battle, heads pressing hard against the other, he shifted to one side.

With all the force and energy an 800 lb. “Lorenzo” had put into moving forward, you can guess what happened. Yep! His front legs buckled, and he fell flat on his face. “Rocky” quickly seized the advantage and pinned his buddy’s head to the ground. When he let “Lorenzo” get back to his feet, they both wandered off in different directions. Neither enjoyed that little patch of clover, but I’m certain I saw a little swagger in “Rocky’s” walk for the next day or two.

The lesson God showed me was that when I battle temptation, I often attempt to do it under my power. More often than I care to admit, the result is that Satan wins. The Holy Spirit reminded me that the liberty I have in my salvation is that I don’t have to fight these spiritual battles alone. My free will ensures I can choose to step aside and call upon the power of God to fight the battle (bull with the devil) for me.

Our Christian Liberty allows us to use our free will to turn to God rather than fighting alone. Share on X

I’ll date myself perhaps, but one of my favorite movies (when I used to go to theaters) was “Michael”, starring John Travolta. As I thought about what God was showing me, this scene from the movie was flashing through my mind. While Mr. Travolta’s portrayal of Michael the archangel is a far different interpretation than that of Daniel 10:13, it’s an apt depiction of spiritual warfare.

Satan delights in engaging us in a bulling contest because he is bigger and stronger than we are when we stand alone. So the next time you’re bulling with temptation, remember to take a tip from “Rocky” and step aside and let God take control. God wins every time, if we let Him fight for us.

God’s blessings,



Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.


45 thoughts on “A Battle of Wills”

  1. Renee Leonard Kennedy

    So rich in metaphor and meaning. May I not be “bull-headed” and let God take the pin, as He is far, far, far more capable of winning the battle. Thanjs, JD!

    1. You and me both Ms. Renee. I never thought of this term while writing this, but it sure does fit. I’ve been “bull-headed” a lot in my life; and still am at times. But God ma’am. With time, He’ll work it out of me. 🙂 God’s blessings; and thank you for adding to our conversation.

    1. They sure can be Ms. Gail. Sometimes, I think I’m more tired at the end of the day from “fighting with myself” (applying self-control) than I am from all the chores. 😀

  2. Another great story to help us understand the message of the Bible. I do think Satan does like to spend time trying to “bulling” us but with God we can stand firm. Thanks for sharing

    1. He surely does Ms. Yvonne. And like “Rocky” the steer, he is pretty cunning. In his case, I think once he gets us moving toward the temptation, he slyly steps aside and then “pushes” us in deeper! Great analogy ma’am. We need to stand our ground, in Christ! Well said author!

  3. Marilyn Nutter

    Another rich story with a powerful take away as we fight spiritual battles every day. And the names Rocky and Lorenzo give me a smile in the midst of a serious topic.

    1. Always glad you enjoyed Ms. Marilyn. Diane (nee Mosconi) names almost all the calves, but I named “Rocky” because he was such a fighter when he was born and his first-time mama didn’t want to accept him. Hey, “Rocky Balboa” was Italian wasn’t he; and so was the great Rocky Marciano? 😀

    1. I keep trying to remember that very same thing Ms. Martha. I wonder sometimes how many times a day God smiles down and asks Himself “Will this child ever learn. He’s tenacious though, just like I made him.”

  4. I was on our high school wrestling team and our coach always taught us to fight for the leverage. And I can see in your story at Rocky did the same thing. If we can only apply our life lessons to the lessons that God is trying to teach us.

    1. Yessir; that’s exactly the purpose behind my posts. If we were only as intelligent as the animals God created. Sometimes I’m convinced that while had high hopes for His greatest creation, the intelligence He gave us is to our detriment.

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Joyce. Glad you enjoyed ma’am; and am betting it was much easier to read this week!? 🙂 Congrats on successful cataracts surgeries my friend.

  5. Your cattle lessons never cease to amaze me. God can teach us from anything He created (after all He spoke from a donkey once!). Battling temptation requires us to have our mind on the spirit and use those weapons of our warfare. We can win because of Who lives in us. Thank you, J.D.

    1. Amen… I often remind myself that He still uses donkeys to speak; every time I sit down to edit something I’ve written. 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post; and always grateful for your sharing it, and all the encouragement you give ma’am.

  6. We learn so much from God’s creatures–if we pay attention. You do, my friend, and we benefit from your wisdom. We can butt our heads against a brick wall, using the same old methods of stubbornness and never achieve our objectives. Yet if we back off (step away), seek God’s guidance, a solution will be given to us. I wish I could always remember this lesson and omit the stubborn interlude. Thank you, J.D. Wishing you all a blessed day on the Cross-Dubya, including your cattle!

    1. Aww… thank you Ms. Katherine. We sure can learn from the animals God entrusts to us; and from the natural creations He places all around us. As you point out, we do have to “pay attention.” I’m afraid I’ve been “guilty as charged” of that many times in my life. Since retiring here to the Cross-Dubya, I’ve learned the importance of lifting my head and observing what’s around me is much more satisfying for my soul than keeping it down and working toward some worldly goal. Great point my friend. Thank you for adding to our conversation.

  7. This also could be seen as my head and feeble frame trying to push against God. He’s immovable! I need to be taken down a notch and submit my will to His!
    We’re never going to move God off of His rightful position.

    1. Great perspective Mr. Ben. Sometimes, we’re not only “bulling” with Satan, but against God’s will for our life also. And you’re right sir; God ain’t moving from His position as God! Sometimes the temptation we’re wrestling with is of our own making. “But I don’t want to surrender that yet Lord.” 🙂 Been there my friend.

  8. Another informative piece. I’m glad to get the real scoop on what that means in the pasture.
    I listened to, “He’s/She’s bullying me!” almost daily for 17 years when I was an elementary school counselor. Most of it wasn’t true bullying, but children ill-equipped to handle conflict.
    We Christians need to up our game with spiritual conflicts. As you said, God fights our battles for us, if we let Him.

    1. Have never thought about my calves/cows bullying one another, but I guess that is certainly one form of it isn’t it? Who is most dominant. Hmm Makes me think of those days (many decades ago) when I bullied others; I never realized I was being a cow about things. Natural instincts I guess. I grew out of it quickly; only took a couple of bloody noses. LOL So true though, if all you saw was someone being domineering over others at home, it was just second nature to do that as a child. Such an insightful comment Ms. Dottie. Thank you for adding such richness to our conversation ma’am. God’s blessings.

        1. 🙂 Absolutely ma’am; although I hadn’t read that translation. That’s one we need to keep handy in this world isn’t it? God owns them all doesn’t He. In fact, my goal is to become one who helps care for His cattle on a thousand hills.

    1. Yes! Exactly the point I was hoping I would get across. Why is our default to always try to fight spiritual battles in our own power. On our own, we are no match; but we don’t ever have to be “on our own.” Thanks for speaking truth Ms. Karen! God’s blessings ma’am.

  9. Like the rest of your fans, I really liked the picture. It added great reinforcement to the piece and helped us all to see your point even clearer. Personally, I think it helped me see that being hard headed hasn’t really been an asset most of the time. All it does is to encourage me to butt heads at times and in places when I should just have just minded my own business. The other thing that came to mind is that our deceitful enemy lets me think I’ve won when all he did was feed my rebellious pride and strengthen a spirit of arrogance. I love the profoundly simple principle you highlighted, i.e. that so often with God, surrender, not pushing harder, is the path to real victory. Great piece–thanks again for another class session in the “Cross-Dubya Institute for Bovine Based Enlightenment”.

    1. I’m pretty sure all of us can look back upon our lives and lament the all-too-many “hard-headed” times when we’ve tried fighting a spiritual battle with our meager human will; or worse, railed against where God was trying to grow/take us. Love your thought about how Satan can deceive us into thinking we’re winning, when in actuality he is only pulling us further into his trap. Great insights sir. Why am I not surprised? 🙂 Looking forward to sharing with you on PJNET TV (www.pjnet.tv) again soon sir.

  10. Gosh, those cows can be so pig-headed sometimes! Great story. I never knew cows were so active before I started reading your blog. I also never knew cows were so curious before I went to a dude ranch. And I certainly never knew nothing about no cow babies before! Thanks, J.D.

  11. Pingback: The Reunion - J.D. Wininger, Christian Author

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