• P. Frank

Rule of Threes

Have you ever heard about the “Rule of Threes” for survival? The rule states that you can survive about three minutes without breathable air, three hours of exposure to extreme heat or cold, three days without drinkable water, and three weeks without food. This rule does not mean it is a hard and fast “three” for each category, just that “three” is used for the sake of easy recollection.


There are people who can hold their breath for way longer than three minutes, but generally speaking, after about three minutes without adequate oxygen, a person will lose consciousness. If the brain has not received sufficient oxygen for about eight minutes, irreversible brain damage starts to occur. The longer the brain goes without adequate oxygen, the more damage occurs, until the person cannot survive.


God is the Breath of Life. “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25).


Prolonged exposure to extreme heat and extreme cold is detrimental to us. Unprotected from harsh environments, most of us would only last about three hours. In extreme heat conditions, the body tries to compensate by sweating profusely to cool the body’s core temperature. Without adequate shelter and water, a person will eventually experience heat stroke and death. The body dries out to the point that it cannot operate correctly and the elevated core temperature will severely damage internal organs.


In extreme cold conditions, the body eventually goes into hypothermic shock. People can sometimes be rehabilitated after their core temperature has been far too low over an extended period of time. However, the cold slows the body’s blood circulation, reducing the oxygen levels throughout the body. It can slow blood flow enough to the point that the blood can start to coagulate in the arteries and veins, leading to pulmonary embolisms, strokes, heart attacks, and other fatal problems.


God is a strong Refuge and Shelter. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1). “For You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” (Isaiah 25:4). “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:10–11).


Our bodies are about 60% water. We have to drink enough water to replenish the water that we lose from exhaling, urinating, sweating, etc. Dehydration from not drinking enough water eventually leads to organ failure and death. If you drink contaminated water, you can get catch some nasty diseases that will lead to severe dehydration. Look up the symptoms of cholera to get a more graphic picture of what people in underdeveloped nations go through without clean drinking water. The water in toilets in the U.S. is cleaner than what many people are drinking around the world.


Jesus is the Source of Living Water. “A woman from Samaria came to draw water [from Jacob’s well]. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:7, 9–14).


Many people can go longer than three weeks without food, so remember the “rule” is just a generalization. For example, take the accounts of some of the victims of the Holocaust who lasted far longer than a few weeks with only mere morsels of food. Whatever the case may be on the length of time, you cannot survive without food – you must eat in order to survive. People throughout history have perished from starvation. When you don’t eat, your body does not receive the necessary amino acids to build proteins that make up the fabric of every cell in your body. Without food, your body starts to break down other cells in the body to get the amino acids it needs to build new cells. Typically, fat cells are the first to be used, followed by musculoskeletal cells. But once your body runs out of the energy needed to survive, your vital organs will fail and you die.


Jesus is the Bread of Life. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’” (John 6:35–40).


In addition to air, refuge, water, and food, I would say that light is essential for survival. You may not directly perish from lack of sunlight (although vitamin D deficiency can lead to cardiac arrest and death), light is essential to life. Sunlight is needed for plants to grow, and we eat these plants and the animals that depend on them. Sunlight also provides the warmth we need to survive. Earth is the perfect distance from the Sun so as not to be too cold or too hot. If the Sun was to suddenly blink out of existence, we would have about 8 minutes and 20 seconds before Earth would completely freeze over in the vacuum of space – which is the amount of time it takes for the Sun’s rays to reach Earth.


Jesus is the Light of the World. “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).


Thank God that He provides for all our physical and spiritual needs! Soli Deo Gloria!