Scripture tells us that "It is required in stewards that they should be faithful." (1 Cor 4:2) Scripture does not require that we be successful. Alcorn writes of "low fruit ministries" that do not have immediate or obvious fruit. He cites two examples: ministering to Muslims or working for pro-life legislation in this political climate.
I have never heard the phrase "low fruit ministry" before, but it makes perfect sense. About a year ago my Sunday School class hosted two missionaries who were serving on some island near Africa. They and their co-missionaries were the only Christians on the island, which was entirely Muslim. They had been there for years and had not converted a single person yet. I remember thinking that their efforts were a waste of time and resources.
Yet Scripture does not require that our efforts bear fruit, just that they demonstrate our faith. That is such a release from pressure. As soon as I have made attempts to do God's work, God smiles. If I spend five minutes explaining God's grace to a Muslim, God is happy. Even if my listener does not convert right then. Maybe he will convert to Christianity twenty years later.
My emphasis should be on my efforts, not the results. This is contrary to the world's view, which focuses on results so much.
This post was inspired by the book In Light of Eternity by Randy Alcorn.