Early spring is a magical time in northern Idaho. This is the time when the sweet spring vegetation fills the air with a perfume aroma. The beautiful June berry scrubs are adorned with white flowers that provide a beautiful contrast to the velvet green carpet of annual grasses that are evident in all the open areas.

I had recently moved to the Northwest and found that springtime in Northern Idaho is known for its superb black bear hunting. From my office window I could see the wildlife was becoming very active after a long, cold winter. I knew that the availability of so much food tempted the hibernating animals to indulge. Animals like the elusive black bear would be on the prowl for a good meal.

While this was appealing to me, my winter and spring schedules had been quite hectic and afforded me little opportunity to properly scout the best areas.

A local pastor contacted me about a speaking engagement for his church and asked if a "guided bear-hunting trip" would be enough incentive to compensate for my normal speaking fees. I graciously accepted and set a time to work in a hunt between commitments.

On my drive to the Sandpoint, Idaho, area, I remember sharing a request of God that went something like, "Dear God, because You are in control of all things I know You can deliver a bear to me if You desire. I have worked very hard in ministry this past year and would really appreciate a chance to take a good bear. I know this is somewhat of a selfish and insignificant request, but it would please my heart so to be allowed the privilege of harvesting one of these wonderful critters. Your Word tells us that You like to give a righteous man the desires of his heart. And so, my Lord, I humbly ask You to assist us with this hunt."

Upon arriving in Sandpoint, I met Clint Gray, a very talented young guide, who had just purchased Buck Shot Outfitting. His background and education in fish and wildlife management plus his forestry work had prepared him well for the opportunity to help guide folks into some rugged terrain. While most outfitters in this area use bait as a way to attract their bears, Clint believes in spotting and stalking as a challenging way to take a bear.

Upon my arrival I was greeted with the news that early scouting reports didn''t look very good. It seemed that because of an unusually heavy snowfall, the early grasses were just beginning to appear.

Clint lamented, "The bears went into hibernation early due to an unseasonable snowfall and lack of food. They also came out early but very thin. The grass areas are very spotty and provide limited food supply for the hungry bears."

The first night we surveyed with our binoculars (glassed) several wooded areas and finally found a bear working the upper edge of a grassy hillside about two miles from our location. We only had two hours of light left. This gave us barely enough time to scamper up the steep, brushy bank. We planned our stalk to climb a section of mountain that would come out about a quarter-mile from where the bear was positioned.

As we worked our way through the heavy downfall, we knew our presence was being announced with the periodic snapping of dry limbs and debris. I rememlber that it was like walking on a conveyor belt covered with potato chips. As we crept around the dense vegetation separating us from the feeding bear our confident expectation that the bear would still be there was quickly eliminated. Sure enough, the bear was no longer holding in the same location. Clint reckoned that "most likely he heard us stalking through the heavy timber and departed with the first snap of a twig."

The disappointing hike back to the truck gave us plenty of time to remember that spotting and stalking bear was a challenging exercise at best. The darkness of the evening covered our look of defeat.

The next morning we began scouting a variety of areas with no success. We saw plenty of signs but no bear. The late afternoon approached with a cold front and a small storm that further hampered our efforts in locating bear. As Clint began asking me questions about when I would again have time to come up and do some hunting, I realized that without assistance from the Creator this trip would be recorded in Clint''s guide book as "an opportunity to get plenty of exercise."

After strolling through a couple of areas and seeing no sign, Clint decided to check out one more area before we headed home. The previous year, while doing a timber job, he had seen a nice chocolate bear in that area. We pulled our truck onto a dirt road and parked at a gate. The short walk to the meadow was filled with silence as both of us felt exhaustion and disappointment from hunting since 5:00 A.M.

After about ten minutes, I could see the open area at the end of the path. I decided to quietly chamber a round and put on my safety. The sun was beginning to set, and the remaining light was only going to last another few minutes. We carefully moved along the perimeter looking for any dark, fuzzy objects. As we initially peered around the field we did not see anything that looked too promising.

We moved to a slightly higher elevation and began to search the area using my Nikon low-light binoculars and scope. As I studied the far end of the meadow, I thought I saw the shape of a bear. In a whisper I asked Clint,"Is that a bear or a stump?" Clint gazed through my binoculars and smiled as he said,"Sure enough, Jim! I think that is that big, chocolatecolored male bear (boar) I saw last year!" Knowing that we only had minutes left of legal shooting time, I decided not to try to close the distance by crawling across the meadow to get a close-in pistol shot with my .44 magnum as I had initially planned.

Instead we elected to move up a little higher where I could sneak behind a woodpile that could be used to steady a 100 yard rifle shot. Just as we were relocating, the bear looked up from his feeding. Our movement announced the fact that he was no longer the only one in this meadow. The big boar scampered into the woods where he could further analyze this situation.

I could faintly see the bear outlined against the darkened forest. His clumsy movements in the dense vegetation gave us the advantage by identifying his position. He peered through the underbrush and periodically stood up to try and catch our scent. The slight breeze in our faces provided some assurance that his efforts to identify us through smell would be hampered.

As minutes passed, my disappointment grew. I became frustrated at the thought that we had blown a chance to finally bag a trophy bear. As I heard the crunching sound of his lumbering steps moving farther into the woods, I could only think about what might have been.

I lowered my rifle to take a deep breath and reflect upon our impatient movements that might have frightened this critter. I looked at Clint and shook my head. He could read the disappointment on my face.

Even though it apeared hopeless, we both stood rigid, minutes passed as we peered into the blckness. Suddenly we again heard the famliar sounds of a large animal blundering its way back to the meadow. The fuzzy, dark image again appeared along the perimeter of the woods, just to the left of where I had first seen it. I gazed at the animal in disbelief. I now had some understanding of how Abraham must have felt when God delivered the ram to be sacrificed for his son Isaac. I felt very blessed that God''s providence would allow us a second chance to take this grand bear.

Clint and I stared at the bear without saying a word. As soon as the bear moved sideways and commenced feeding, I slipped in front of Clint for the shot. From a standing offhand position, I steadied my aim and gently squeezed the trigger when the bear stepped into my crosshairs. My Browning 7 mm barked as the Boss Muzzle Break System dissipated the flash into the cold night air.

The flash temporarily took away my evening vision. The piercing noise seemed to awaken the sleepy forest as critters starting yelping and chirping. Clint yelled out with joy, "You hit him, Jim, you hit him!"

As my eyes adapted again to the dark shadows, I peered through my scope to see the bear gasping for its last breath. I fired another round to quickly end the drama. We dashed to the fallen animal with a sense of thankfulness and wonder. To know that the Creator was gracious enough to redirect this bear our way was a humbling exercise.

As I knelt down to thank God for His goodness, I was reminded how gracious our God is to provide so many things. The Psalmist reminds us that nothing escapes His attention "He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call" (Psalm 147:9).

Even the simple request of a tired hunter was responded to with a loving heart.

God takes great delight in providing gifts to His children. He loves surprising us with bounty beyond our imaginations. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Roman 8:28 8:28).

This unique adventure caused me to think about the words found in Scripture that defined Abraham''s experience: "Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ''On the mountain of the LoRD it will be provided"''(Genesis 22:13,14).

The goodness of God is neverending. It is when we examine His acts of goodness that we see more of His character.

Understanding the Goodness of God

Someone once said,"Goodness consists not so much in the outward things we do but in the inward things we are." As we further study the character of God, we see that the inward things that constitute His divine character include a heart of being good to His creation.

The awesomeness of God often causes us to fear Him. His goodness encourages us not to fear but to appreciate His kindness and cordiality. It is a paradox of our faith to fear God but not to be afraid. It is through understanding His loving nature and His goodness that we are able to appreciate His infinite care.

The goodness of God is defined through His kindness, benevolence and acts of good will toward mankind. His blessings, mercy, sympathy, and tenderheartedness can be seen

When Jesus was asked about the goodness of God, he replied, “Why do ask me about what is good?... There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).

It is the goodness of God that drives the appreciation for the many daily blessings we receive. Blessings like a bear coming back out of the woods so that a tired hunter might have some meat for his freezer and the joy of taking a trophy bear. We need to appreciate those unexpected pleasures of life that cause us to humble ourselves before man and God.

Since God is unchanging and perfect in His character, we can appreciate that the intensity of His goodness and lovingkindness is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He has never been kinder than He is now. He will not become more kind in His character in the future. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the just and unjust alike.

Somehow in the unique character of the Almighty there exists the potential to be just and fair while continuing to be good. It is that mystical blend of God''s being that enables Him to stand in judgment of man while continuing to show mercy.

The goodness of God can be seen in many ways. His character serves as a model for us to follow in knowing how we can manifest goodness to others. "You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees" (Psalm 119:68).

God''s Goodness Supplies Temporal Wants

"Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" (Acts 14:17).

God delights in providing goodness to His creation. By supplying us with our temporal wants, He demonstrates His compassion for creation. In His divine plan for mankind God provided "all things" and an ability to willfully choose our destiny. These things are a testimony of His goodness and creative powers. God is not a control freak. He has graciously made us with spirits and minds so that we can choose our fate.

God''s Goodness Leads to Repentance

"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God''s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

The natural response to someone who has demonstrated kindness is to show appreciation. We can demonstrate appreciation in many ways. Once we accept God''s goodness in our life, we have a responsibility to analyze our attitudes and actions in light of His unmerited favor. Most people have a desire to change their behavior as a testimony of their thankfulness for His goodness.

Our verbal acknowledgement of the act is always appropriate. When this is expressed to our divine Creator, we call it prayer. A repentant heart (changed life) can testify and thank God for the goodness and mercy given in a specific situation.

God''s Goodness Is Expressed in His Forgiveness

"Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ''May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone''"(2 Chronicles 30:18).

Like King Hezekiah, we want to cry out to our loving and faithful God to thank for His grace and His mercy. Out of God’s goodness He answers prayer and forgives sin.

"You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You" (Psalm 86:5).

It is because of God’s, goodness that He allows us access to His eternal kingdom. By accepting the wonderful gift of salvation we can have
forgiveness of sin. I would think that Christ''s sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of goodness from a loving God. He asks each one of us to accept and appreciate this act for its transforming power. Have you accepted this act of goodness from God?

As we endeavor to model God''s character, let us do good. We can do more good by being good than in any other way. In the final analysis, the only way to be good is to obey God. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if you do not give up(Galatians 6:9)
John Bunyan once said, “Everyone will cry up the goodness of men; but who is there that is, as he should, affected with the goodness of God?”

Are we daily demonstrating the goodness of God in our lives? What acts of goodness have you provided to others this day?

Personal Application

• How can God’s character serve as a model for us to follow in knowing how we can manifest goodness to others? “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees”(Psalm 119:68)

• When Jesus was asked about the Goodness of God, He replied, "Why do you ask me about what is good?... There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments" (Matthew 19:17) What does that mean in terms of how you should live your life?