"...and eventually, I had to let go of the idea of a 'punishing' God..." the speaker was discussing their experience with the 11th Step, and when they shared this many heads in the room nodded a little, affirming their own journey along similar lines.
When they said it though, I was struck that while I, too, had crossed that same bridge -- identifying where in my attitudes I met the idea of a Higher Power with mistrust or fear -- the next step for me was to let go of the idea of a rewarding God as well. (Which, rather than meeting the idea of HP with fear, is about meeting God with expectations and an attempt to control It ).
In many ways, it was more frightening to let go of the idea of a God who would reward me than it was challenging to let go of the idea of a God who would punish me. (I'm always looking for a way to control, a pay out or a guarantee.)
The recipe analogy came to mind: I follow the steps in a cake recipe, and I wind up baking a cake. But at the end of that process I don't pull the cake out of the oven and go "Oh! I've been such a good dooby, following this recipe as its written, that the Oven God rewarded me with a cake!" I followed a process and I got a result.
For me, AA's recipe is similarly devoid of "reward." (Though in a more poetic mood I can certainly use that term to illustrate some of the gratitude I feel for the life I have today.) It's pretty straightforward, actually -- I follow the Steps, and live by AA's principles, and I get a specific result: A spiritual experience which allows me to stay sober on a daily basis. Additional benefits are a quiet(er) mind and a more open heart -- and perhaps a way of being which might maximize certain opportunities -- but that's just (forgive me) the frosting on the cake. For me, it's not God "rewarding" me for doing AA.
(Because if I'm living with an idea of a Higher Power who is supposed to reward me for being good/sober, and then They don't... or They don't do it the way I think They should... well then, eventually, I'm in a lot of trouble.)