There is still sometimes in the church today the thinking that success is a sign that a person is following God well, and difficulty and adversity are signs that they are likely doing something wrong.
While following God’s commands often leads to success, sometimes (due to injustice in the world) it leads to hardship and the opposite of earthly success. Hence, we cannot evaluate whether God is blessing someone simply by their outward success and circumstances. We have to look at character and obedience.
Here are some incredible quotes from some of the greatest theologians in church history on this matter, from Leland Ryken’s book Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure:
Puritan Thomas Watson: “True godliness is usually attended with persecution.”
Puritan Richard Baxter: “Take heed that you judge not of God’s love, or of your happiness or misery, by your riches or poverty, prosperity or adversity.”
Luther: It is “utterly nonsensical” the “delusion” that if someone “has good fortune, wealth, and health, …God is dwelling there.”
Samuel Willard: “As riches are not evidences of God’s love, so neither is poverty of his anger or hatred.”
Thomas Hooker: “Afflictions are no argument of God’s displeasure…but the ensign of grace and goodness.”